Tuesday, April 14, 2015

What is going on with Congress and the Iran deal?

 Frm, http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2015/04/obama-caves-on-corker-menendez.
Scott Johnson

Congress looked at what came out of Lausanne and they didn’t like it. Then they got briefed by the administration – and they liked it even less. This is their way of sending a message to the President about the need to make any deal stronger, and this is their way of mobilizing pressure to make sure their message gets through....report on the Lausanne announcement published this weekend by David Albright’s Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), which has been making the rounds on the Hill. (It is) a catalog of how the concessions made to Iran at Lausanne detonated the possibility of a good deal. In order to get even the contested announcement that came out, the Americans had to cave diplomatically on a variety of issues...Wednesday 25th — the Wall Street Journal revealed that Iran will be allowed to put off making a full disclosure of its nuclear activities until after sanctions relief — now the ISIS assessment on disclosure: “Negotiators must not agree to lift UNSC sanctions before the IAEA has reached its broader conclusion about the peaceful nature of Iran’s program, including determining the extent of past progress on Iran’s military nuclear program and dismantling any remaining efforts… Unless this facet of Iran’s nuclear program is dealt with, no agreement should be made. It is a deal component that negotiators would ignore at the peril of regional security and peace.”
Thursday 26h — the Associated Press revealed that Iran will be allowed to continue spinning centrifuges in its underground military bunker at Fordow — now the ISIS assessment on Fordow: “A surprise in the Framework is the proposed continuation of the Fordow enrichment plant… If bans on producing near 20 percent LEU also sunset at year 15 (see above), this heavily fortified plant would be capable of producing enough weapon-grade uranium for a nuclear weapon within a few weeks, or enough WGU for two weapons in less than a month.”
Monday 29th — the New York Times revealed that Iran will not be forced to ship its enriched uranium beyond its borders — now the ISIS assessment on stockpiles: “How will this material be disposed of so that the limit is not exceeded?… accumulations of more than 500 kilograms of 3.5 percent LEU above the 300 kilogram limit would lower breakout times significantly below 12 months… If Iran accumulates stocks of 3.5 percent LEU hexafluoride above 1,000 kilograms and can access quickly only 50 kilograms of near 20 percent LEU hexafluoride, it could reduce breakout times to less than six months.”
Again, these are just part of the paper. But they’re enough to understand why Congress is demanding oversight: combined, the concessions made in just the last few weeks to the Iranians give Tehran a breakout time significantly shorter than 12 months, an enrichment facility where breakout can happen that’s impervious to most air attacks, and a verification regime so weak it threatens to undermine “regional security and peace.”...the breaking news is that the Obama administration flipped this afternoon, just before the markup started, and withdrew its veto threat. Josh Earnest disclosed the move to reporters at today’s White House briefing. In retrospect this was probably just simple math. After the Corker-Cardin compromise, a Senate Democratic staffer told the New York Times that a veto-proof majority was now assured. McCarthy had already told reporters that he had the votes he needed in the House to sustain a veto. Someone in the White House seems to have counted to 67 and 290, and made the call...The political problem for the White House spin is that it looks like they lost big. They fought against oversight for months, up to and including accusing supporters of being warmongers (also something that came up during today’s session). The National Iranian American Council – one of the groups that has been at the front of the White House campaign to block Congressional action – issued a press release blasting the vote and declaring “the compromise amendment that was struck by Senators Corker and Cardin does not change the fundamental problems with this bill.” Beyond the substance, it’s just very difficult in DC to spin a loss like this. Votes spin themselves. The White House talk about substantive changes is probably aimed as much at preventing that narrative from taking hold, as it is anything else...t politically, it’s important to show that Congress disapproves of the President’s diplomacy to such an extent that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee just advanced legislation 19-0 prohibiting him from touching Congressional sanctions until they review a deal. It builds pressure on the administration to explain what they’re doing. It will serve as a formal way for the Senate to have a debate on the floor. It forces the issue.

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