Nuclear deal with Iran would not harm U.S. interests
It is neither unwarranted nor unprecedented for Congress to reject international accords or demand significant revisions to them. Congress in its history has rejected 130 agreements transacted by the Executive branch and has demanded that 200 other accords be modified before gaining approval. The Obama administration itself renegotiated a nuclear agreement after congressional objections. In 2009, the United States and United Arab Emirates (UAE) concluded a nuclear accord. Many in Congress raised concerns that the agreement was not sufficiently rigorous, causing the Obama White House to renegotiate the accord in May 2009 with the stipulation that UAE would forgo a domestic enrichment capability.
Given that the JCPOA is a political agreement whose obligations are voluntarily undertaken, it seems a suitable candidate for similar congressional treatment.
Among those legitimate concerns are: the almost immediate unfreezing of about $50 billion (figures of $150 billion are wide of the mark) of Iranian assets, some of which could be used to strengthen Iran’s proxies in the region, such as Hizbullah; whether International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors will get timely access to suspicious sites; whether the provisions for sanctions “snapping back” in the event of Iranian cheating will work; the impact of lifting the embargo on ballistic-missile technology after eight years; and, most crucially, what can prevent Iran from making a dash for nuclear weapons after 15 years, when most of the constraints lapse.
The right response to all these worries is not scrapping the deal but reinforcing it. The problem of what happens after 15 years can at least partially be dealt with by a firm and enduring American commitment, backed by Congress, to use all means, including military force, to prevent Iran from ever crossing the nuclear threshold. America must also commit both money and intelligence resources to help the inspectors in their work. And it must have agreements in place with the other signatories for expediting access to suspicious sites and for punishing even minor Iranian infractions with restored sanctions. Whatever the status of the arms and missile embargoes, America must be clear that it will use all other tools at its disposal to curb Iranian military power and Iranian support for terrorist proxies. The threat of a wealthier Iran stirring up more trouble can only be tackled by determined American re-engagement with the region.