Wednesday, May 6, 2015

summarizing where we are at deadly Iran deal

A lot of noise, signifying nothing‎
The next deadline for an agreement between the P5+1 nations and Iran over its ‎nuclear program is June 30. As with prior deadlines, the next one can be extended to iron out "final" details as occurred 
1. Concessions by the P5+1: The concessions are largely from the P5+1, not ‎Iran.

a. The United States has stated publicly that ‎sanctions relief would be gradual, and tied to specific performance by Iran ‎in mothballing or decommissioning aspects of its nuclear program, and ‎satisfying the new supposedly tougher inspections regime. When the ‎Iranian leadership declared in early April that this was not the case, and ‎sanctions relief was to be immediate, with an estimated $50 billion released ‎pretty much upon inking the deal, President Barack Obama retreated and seemed to ‎be agreeable to this interpretation. He stated to reporters that sanctions ‎disagreement could be "creatively addressed" in future negotiations, but no ‎one need worry, 

b. since there were sanctions "snapbacks" that would occur ‎quickly to reinstate sanctions if Iran regressed from its commitments. Of course, Iran ‎would already have $50 billion in hand, perhaps more, and ‎Obama's assurances on snapbacks do not appear to have incorporated the ‎views on this issue of some of the other P5+1 members, which have veto ‎authority at the United Nations Security Council, such as Vladimir Putin's ‎Russia or China. ...The description ‎of this process as a "snapback," suggesting any kind of immediacy or high ‎likelihood of success, seems, as a result, largely unwarranted. Again, these ‎snapbacks were what Obama proposed as providing security that ‎Iran would not cheat after first releasing an enormous amount of money to ‎the country for having done little more than sign an agreement. The ‎Americans' deal sheet that was ‎released by Secretary of State John Kerry after the Lausanne talks ‎concluded, and which the Iranians claimed were a fiction in some areas, ‎appear to have largely been an American spin in those areas where ‎disagreements remained, or an attempt to hide concessions already made ‎or yet to be made. 

c. This was especially the case in regard to sanctions relief. ‎Despite some attempts to put the deal in the best light as a true compromise ‎with roughly equal concessions by both sides, the American deal sheet, which ‎indicated that sanctions relief would match performance by Iran, appears to ‎be inaccurate.
From that fact sheet:
"‎•‎ Iran will receive sanctions relief, if it verifiably abides by its commitments.‎
‎"‎•‎ U.S. and E.U. nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the IAEA has ‎verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps. If at any ‎time Iran fails to fulfill its commitments, these sanctions will snap back ‎into place.‎
"‎•‎ The architecture of U.S. nuclear-related sanctions on Iran will be retained for ‎much of the duration of the deal and allow for snapback of sanctions in ‎the event of significant nonperformance.‎
"‎•‎ All past U.N. Security Council resolutions on the Iran nuclear issue will be ‎lifted simultaneous with the completion, by Iran, of nuclear-related ‎actions addressing all key concerns (enrichment, Fordo, Arak, PMD, ‎and transparency)."‎
The administration's latest admissions now indicate that lack of ‎performance might at best bring some sanctions back (assuming Russia and ‎China are willing) but will not delay initial sanctions relief. ‎

‎2. Iranian public statements and behavior: If Obama's seeming obsession ‎with reaching a nuclear deal with Iran is consummated, the real question is ‎whether Iran has in any way become a changed nation after a few years of talking ‎with "the great Satan," the nation that Iranians have clamored for "death to" ‎for 36 years. ‎So far, there is no evidence of any kind that Iran seems willing to join the ‎‎"community of nations," and become less of a belligerent on the world stage. ‎While the talks have been going on, Iran has stepped up its military involvement in ‎Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, and most recently has seized a foreign ship belonging to ‎the Marshall Islands. ‎Iranian leaders have also made clear that their military programs are off limits to ‎nuclear inspectors. With tens of billions of dollars in sanctions relief, Iran's ability to further ‎project its power in the region, and arm Israel's enemies Hezbollah and Hamas, will ‎only be elevated. As mentioned earlier, Iran has also issued its own interpretation ‎of what was agreed to in the recently concluded round of negotiations, and it ‎includes a lot fewer Iranian concessions than the Americans have claimed even ‎apart from sanctions relief.

‎3.‎ Congressional action: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has passed ‎unanimously the Corker-Menendez bill, which provides for a quick review ‎by Congress of the Iran deal after it is finalized. Some ‎regarded this as a big victory for Congress, since the president had fought ‎congressional review, arguing this was not a treaty but an executive action ‎or agreement. It is highly likely that the Congress will pass the current ‎version of the bill, and it will be signed by the president. Where conflict may ‎emerge is if a final deal is signed with the Iranians, and it is submitted to ‎Congress. Assume a majority in Congress oppose the deal. For sure, the president ‎will veto that action. An override of this veto in Congress would require a ‎‎2/3 vote in each house: 67 votes in the Senate and 290 in the House of ‎Representatives. In the 2014 midterms, Republicans won 54 Senate seats, ‎and 247 house seats. Assuming all current house vacancies are filled by the ‎party that had held these seats in January, and that all Republicans voted ‎to override a presidential veto (not a certainty by any means), Republicans would need ‎‎13 Democrats in the Senate and 43 in the House to succeed in the veto ‎override. The chances of this occurring are not good. If the Iran deal were ‎viewed as a treaty, then the president would need 67 votes in the Senate for ‎ratification. Now Obama only has to hold 34 members of his party in the ‎Senate. There are a lot of games being played with congressional action on ‎this bill. A series of recent public opinion polls show that the president's ‎loud and aggressive campaign against Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech to ‎Congress, including implied threats of hostility at the U.N., ‎antagonized a sizable number of normally reliably Democratic Jewish voters. With a presidential election 18 months away, and ‎Democrats anxious to regain the Senate this cycle, many party members are ‎looking for a way to show solidarity with Israel, after 60 Democrats in the ‎Senate and House rudely boycotted the prime minister's speech to Congress. Voting for the Corker-Menendez bill is an easy ‎way to do that -- since it only enables Congress to get a shot at reviewing the ‎deal, but does not commit any Democrat to in fact oppose the deal when it is ‎reviewed, or vote to override the president of his own party if a veto is cast ‎by Obama. Jewish organizations such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which preach the gospel ‎of bipartisanship, are also anxious to show that the bonds between ‎Democrats and Israel have not been broken. As a result, efforts to ‎strengthen the Corker-Menendez bill to give it more teeth, including ‎amendments from Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Arkansas Senator Tom ‎Cotton, were opposed by Democrats and some ‎Republicans as well, ostensibly fearing that any change in the language of ‎the bill would generate a presidential veto, killing Republican efforts to get ‎any kind of congressional review and Democratic efforts to fake that the ‎party is still largely pro-Israel. In other words, there is a saleable picture of ‎congressional behavior attached to a fairly weak bill. But this is viewed as ‎better than no bill due to a presidential veto or loss of Democratic support. 
It does not take a forecaster with Nate Silver's skills to predict where this is going. A deal is ‎likely to be signed. The U.S. Congress will not be able to stop it. Iran will continue ‎to behave as Iran has behaved. And over time, sooner or later, Iran will have its ‎nuclear weapons.

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