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November 08, 2013 9:50 AM Iran Deal Imminent?

By Ed Kilgore

Here’s the news about a likely deal between the six nations (know as P5+ 1: the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Russia and China) who have been negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program, and the Tehran regime, per WaPo’s Warrick and Booth:

A deal that would give Iran limited relief from economic sanctions in exchange for a temporary freeze of some of its nuclear activities was near completion late Thursday, and Secretary of State John F. Kerry was preparing to fly to Geneva Friday morning for a likely announcement.

Kerry, who has been traveling in the Middle East for the past week, will hold a trilateral meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to “help narrow the differences, “ according to Kerry spokeswoman Jen Psaki, who said that Ashton had asked him to come. A senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity about the fast-moving events, said that Kerry has been open to joining the Geneva talks since they began last month if his presence was helpful.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also plans to travel to Geneva, according to official sources quoted by Agence France Presse. Other P5+1 governments have not yet indicated whether their foreign ministers will attend for the announcement of the phased plan, which would include the most significant restrictions on Iran’s nuclear facilities in nearly a decade.
An agreement, which U.S. officials described as a “first step” in a comprehensive pact restricting Tehran’s ability to seek atomic weapons, could herald a significant shift in U.S.-Iranian relations after years of enmity.

The likelihood of a deal is underlined by Bibi Netanyahu’s immediate attack on it. Israel’s policy, of course, is that sanctions need to remain in place until Iran’s nuclear capability is eliminated, a position which treats halts in the nuclear program as largely irrelevant.

Those in the U.S., including most of the Republican Party, who take a similar position won’t greet a deal positively, and in any event, many GOP foreign policy hawks don’t support any activity towards Iran unless it’s aimed at regime change.

But for the rest of us, it’s a positive step. And it’s a good time to read or re-read Rachel Cohen’s prescient article at Ten Miles Square discussing the president’s power to ease sanctions on Iran without congressional approval. Here’s her bottom line conclusion:

Can the administration act by itself to take advantage of its discretion? The answer is yes,” said Elizabeth Rosenberg, a Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security and former Senior Advisor at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, who played a major role in implementing and enforcing financial sanctions on Iran. But, Rosenberg warns, political missteps could complicate Obama’s ability to use that discretion. She says that unless Obama manages his relationship carefully with lawmakers in the next few months, as diplomatic talks with Tehran begin to progress, certain hawkish members of Congress could take steps to make his life difficult.

So it is worth paying attention to how various factions in Congress react if and when a “first step” deal is announced.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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