The sensible scenario

There is a distinct possibility that the US Congress will disapprove of the Iranian nuclear deal or demand it be improved. The question is: then what?

US Congress. (photo credit: REUTERS)
US Congress.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The more people read the recently published 160-page Iranian nuclear deal the more people oppose it. Once the two secret side deals signed between the IAEA and Iran are also disclosed, more laymen and lawmakers will surely disapprove.
An enlightening questioning of US Secretary of State John Kerry by the Senate Armed Services Committee on the subject can attest to that. Cynics would say that once President Barack Obama reads the entire agreement attentively he may also retract some of his support. Recent polls show that about two thirds of Americans distinctly dislike the deal. Logic would have it that a similar percentage of their congressional representatives will also revoke the Iranian deal, leading to a possible presidential veto thereafter.
There is a distinct possibility that the US Congress will disapprove of the Iranian nuclear deal or demand it be improved. What seemed inconceivable just a short while ago has become almost inevitable.
The question is: then what? What will happen after Congress cancels the deal? Will war rage throughout the lands like the president and his pundits warn? Will the US dollar dissipate like John Kerry cautioned? Or will the sides return to the table to broker a better deal? The latter seems like the more sensible scenario.
An overruling from the senate would be far from unprecedented.
As law professor Orde Kittrie wrote in The Wall Street Journal last week, “Congress has flatly rejected international agreements signed by the executive branch at least 130 times in U.S. history... The Senate has permanently blocked at least 108 treaties... Moreover, more than 200 treaties agreed to by America’s executive branch were subsequently modified with Senate- required changes before receiving Senate consent and finally entering into force.”
It would be most sensible for the Senate to demand an improved Iranian deal.
FROM AN American perspective, presidential prestige would temporarily plunge, but the sense of administration accountability would be boosted.
America would once again become America and show the world what a thriving democracy looks like. The world would see that transparency, freedom of speech and press, open and candid debate between the people and their representatives can prevail and can be carried out during a leader’s tenure and not just during his campaign. Sure it will be a difficult moment for the president, but it will also be a sign of strength for the state of the union, and once the president adheres to the people’s preference he will be remembered as a true Democrat.
The other members of the P5+1 group, who never really viewed a nuclear Iran as an existential threat, will probably agree to additional meeting again in Geneva or Vienna. The Russians, as witnessed by Iranian commander Ghasem Soleimani’s recent visit to Moscow that blatantly violates the UN travel ban, and the Chinese, as seen with their planned fighter plane transaction with Iran, will do primarily as they like, regardless of the deal structure and irrespective of the democratic exercise in America. The Brits, French and Germans will follow the American lead on this.
As for Iran, it is still holding out. It may very well, for tactical reasons, refrain from ratifying the deal as there is currently an internal Iranian discussion regarding whether the Iranian Parliament (majlis) or the Supreme National Security Council need to approve it before Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei decides. The ayatollah has yet to publicly approve or disapprove the deal. He has, however recently said that Iran’s Middle East policy is 180 degrees opposite to that of America’s and has revealed his view on agreement technicalities by clarifying that “whether this text is approved or disapproved, no one will be allowed to harm the principles of the Islamic system.” One of those principles, of course, is that foreign inspectors are barred access to Iranian nuclear facilities.
Notwithstanding, Iran will prefer renewed negotiations to war. The lifting of sanctions and the return to the family of nations remains a prime Iranian interest. Iran knows it has a lot to lose if it walks away or turns to war. Aside from the fact that returning to the nuclear negotiations table will show a pragmatic side and score points in public opinion – it is very unlikely that Iran will waive the $150 billion expected to come their way once the final deal is struck and sanctions lifted.
As the president has reiterated, the agreement with Iran is indeed historic.
It may very well reshape the post-Arab Spring or, as the Iranians refer to it, “Islamic Awakening” Middle East. International and regional reality after the agreement will not be the same. For the sake of future generations – we better, and we can improve the deal.
There are many fissures in the deal, but if the revised agreement will improve the inspections framework whereby upon suspicion Iranians will receive a 24-hour notice rather than a 24-day notice, and/or if the Iranians will truly be limited in their enrichment of uranium – forever, and/or if enforceable penalties for Iranian violations will be clearly set – then the democratic process being played out now in America will have been well worth the effort.
Ophir Falk is a licensed lawyer and PhD. candidate in International Relations at Haifa University. Michael (Mickey) Segall is a senior analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA).