Debate rages on over Iran nuclear deal

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Photograph: Wikimedia Commons

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The recently-signed Iran nuclear agreement faces relentless criticism from politicians of different countries as it undergoes Congressional Review.

The Iran nuclear deal, which has been the result of a two-year long diplomatic effort, now faces its final hurdle. For the US, one of the seven countries which participated in its creation, to recognize the deal as legitimate requires it to be approved by both houses of Congress over the next two months. This deal will mean that in return for $100 billion of Iran’s assets becoming unfrozen, Iran will significantly curtail its nuclear program and other military development. Iran’s existing uranium stockpile will be reduced by 98% and 2/3 of their centrifuges will be removed from the main reactor at Natanz. There will also be an arms embargo imposed for five years and a missile embargo for eight years. The IAEA, an international inspection body, will be able to issue a search request to any Iranian nuclear facility to ensure that the country keeps its side of the bargain. This deal will see Iran re-emerge on global markets and restore their economy as sanctions imposed on them since 2006 will be gradually lifted.

However, various politicians from the US and Israel have found fault with the deal’s parameters, and more generally with Iran, and wish to stop an agreement they feel will prove to be to the detriment of the global community. Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu, has relentlessly derided the agreement as ‘a bad, bad deal’ and a ‘stunning historic mistake’ in the various media appearances that he is currently making on US TV channels. Israel and Iran have been in a long-term feud, so such a reaction is in no way unexpected. In fact even in April of this year, Daoud Khairallah, Professor of International Law at Georgetown University, was able to predict that Israel ‘will try everything they can’ to undermine the deal. The PM claims that the newly available cash-flow for Iran will mean it will all be spent in order ‘to finance their terror machine’. He is also more than skeptical of the efficacy of the inspections as Iran has negotiated a 24-day notice for one to be conducted, making it easy for them to ‘cheat’ on the deal. In short, Netanyahu believes the deal ‘will produce the opposite of peace’ and that Iran will still somehow be able to shorten their breakout capacity before the ten years of the agreement run out. He urges the US Congress to refuse the agreement in his plea to not ‘let them [Iran] have the yellow cake and eat it too’.

Closer to the centre of influence, Republicans have joined in declaiming what they see as being yet another failure of the Obama Administration. Senator Ron Johnson has termed the entire process ‘a big charade’ while Senator Jim Risch, while addressing Secretary of State John Kerry, said that the negotiators had been ‘bamboozled’ by Iran. Senator Bob Corker echoed a similar sentiment when he stated to the US negotiators, ‘you guys have been fleeced’. Mike Huckabee, running for the Republican nomination for President of the US in 2016, has uttered what MSNBC has termed ‘the most offensive comments’ on the matter. Huckabee has compared the deal to the Holocaust and Obama as marching Israel to the ‘door of the oven’. Due to the inflammatory nature of these remarks Obama felt the need to personally address them, recognizing that they were ‘part of a general pattern’ while saying that it would be ‘ridiculous if it weren’t so sad’. Furthermore, the group Citizens for Nuclear Free Iran are claiming to be prepared to spend $40 million on TV ads. Those that have been released are in opposition to the deal and use the slogan: ‘We need a better deal.’

What this opposition to the Iran nuclear agreement has so far demonstrated is the vague nature of its criticism. There are only a marginal number who actually state the specific problems they see with the deal rather than firing off a series of insults at the Democrats or Iran. Yet while the opposition continues to make its loud reproaches, those in support of it do not sit idly by. Both Barack Obama and John Kerry have appeared on popular US TV shows to explain the benefits of the Iran deal to the public. Kerry has called it ‘a comprehensive long-term deal’. Obama, developing this further, although he says Iran is ‘anti-American, anti-Israel, anti-semitic’ and a sponsor for terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, explains that the deal will mean that ‘Iran will not be able to get a nuclear weapon’. In agreement, the UK PM David Cameron has stated that, ‘If there wasn’t a deal, I think we would face Iran with a nuclear weapon’.

There is no doubt that constant and heated arguments over the Iran nuclear agreement will continue for the duration of the Congressional Review. Yet despite this ongoing open discussion of the issue, those who oppose the deal fear that in the case of its failure to pass through Congress, Obama may resort to using his executive power in vetoing the decision. It is nevertheless important to air all concerns while there is still time. Members of the public who are still on the fence about the issue are encouraged by the Obama Administration to pose their questions to the recently-created Twitter account @TheIranDeal. Meanwhile, the stakes remain high as this historic diplomatic breakthrough approaches the final hurdle.

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