In a seemingly surprising show of solidarity with President Obama, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously passed a resolution that would approve the Iranian Nuclear Deweaponization deal.
Not surprising, however, is that there’s a catch. The congressional zeal for this resolution stems from a provision within it that gives Congress the option to determine whether to remove or perpetuate sanctions levied against Iran.
This is a dangerous course of action. Congressional Republicans have already shown their vitriol towards Iran when they drafted the “open letter to Iran,” which only undermined the White House’s efforts at the negotiating table.
Congress needs to stay out of this deal. They have continually shown an inability to perform even basic legislative functions, and this will be no different.
For a recent example, look no further than the protracted renewal of the Department of Homeland Security.Media pundits and government officials alike expected a swift renewal of Department of Homeland Security, but what seemed like an almost unilateral support for its renewal turned into a three week debacle of short term funding methods until, at last, a “clean” bill was passed to fund the Department of Homeland Security.
This process was plagued by “poison pill” amendments and endless politicized debate, and with the fervor Congressional Republicans feel towards Iran, any meaningful concessions made with Iran are in jeopardy by similar action.
In order to prevent Iran from refining weapons grade nuclear material, we must be willing to relax sanctions that have dogged the Islamic nation for decades. The sanctions regimes imposed on Iraq and Iran following the Gulf War unequivocally demonstrated that the nation’s people, and not its government, paid the heaviest price for sanctions.
In the ten years following Desert Storm, sanctions barring the import of certain medical supplies saw the Iraqi infant and child mortality double, the cost of which was an estimated 500,000 of young lives. Iran has viewed the sanctions as Western powers attempting to assert their dominance over their state, and have responded with defiance. Sanctions have had a galvanizing effect on Iran’s nuclear policy. Before the intensified round of sanctions in 2006, Iran had approximately 1,000 centrifuges, yet after the sanctions were passed, Iran increased its centrifuge count tenfold.
While the same sanctions are likely a key motivator in bringing Iran to the negotiating table today, we must seize the opportunity to capitalize on Iran’s pragmatism and finally achieve a victory in the long fought battle to prevent a thermonuclear Iran.
Until Congress can prove to the American people that it is willing to work on bipartisan issues outside of bills that extend the power of the legislature, it should keep its fangs out of the diplomatic process.