Could Congress’ Backing of Iran’s Nuclear Deal Cause an Impetuous Rift Between the United States and Israel?

By Anthony Moreland – With impending legislation that seeks to redress the three decades long sanctions against Iran, the concern troubling many is whether or not there will be unrest regarding United States/Israeli relations in the coming months.  The United States has long held sanctions against Iran dating back to 1979 that first began with the hostage crisis at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.  Since 1979, the U.S. has adopted and put into place other sanctions along with the 2010 sanctions that were considered “unprecedented,” mainly in response to conflict related to Iran’s support for “international terrorism and its aggressive actions against non-belligerent shipping in the Persian Gulf.”

The sanctions levied by the United States from 1979 to 1995 have consisted of freezing $12 billion dollars worth of “Iranian government assets in the United States and U.S. banks overseas.”  Additionally, the U.S. imposed additional embargos on Iranian goods and services, including the involvement in petroleum development in Iran. From 2010 to 2014, the United States revoked all permission to import certain foods and carpets of Iranian origin. In addition to U.S. sanctions, Iran has faced sanction imposition from the United Nations and the European Union.

The present legislation on the table took two years to negotiate and proposes to reduce “Iran’s existing stockpile of nuclear fuel and its capacity to produce new fuel.”  The deal will diminish the number of centrifuges; reduce its quantity of enriched uranium, and will allow for the overall reduction of sanctions, which have impeded its sale of oil, and impediments to its participation in the international financial system.

While some see this agreement as an unparalleled victory between two 36-year adversaries, some are cautiously doubtful.  Republicans and Democrats are quietly attempting to pass a bill that will provide Congress with an “avenue to reject White House-brokered framework unveiled last week.”  Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer indicated that “while there’s no guarantee that Congress would ultimately reject an agreement with Iran, there’s an increasingly bipartisan consensus that Congress should at least have the ability to do so.”  As the vote count currently stands, Congress is a one vote shy of a veto-proof majority.

Other Democrats have expressed their support for the legislation however their vote depends on Republican concessions that will “alleviate concerns the bill could derail any agreement.”  The Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair stated that “Congress will exercise its “rightful role” to scrutinize and approve any agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting international sanctions.” Congressional authority to review the Iran agreement is derived from the U.S. Constitution Article II, Section II, which reads, “The President … shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur.”  Nevertheless, it has been said the President is going to attempt to bypass Congressional approval all together by claiming that his deal with Iran is not a treaty, rather it is a “sole executive agreement,” which requires no approval from Congress.

While U.S and Israeli relations have seen better days, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not let his sentiments go unheard.  Netanyahu has recently put on the table the possibility of an airstrike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, although not much credence has been given to his statements. It is also unlikely that his demand for Iranian recognition of Israel will become a top priority in future negotiations.  It will be curious to see if Netanyahu’s demands are ignored when the agreement is finalized on June 30, 2015, and if the indifference to his stipulations affects future dealings with the U.S.

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