After a breakthrough in the nuclear negotiations with Iran saw the announcement of a framework for the deal last week, President Obama's next step is to sell the deal to a GOP-led Congress in what could prove to be a significant obstacle. But the preliminary agreement has the backing of many outside authorities on the subject, as briefings by the White House on the deal helped further the president's case after top nuclear experts applauded the preliminary Iran deal and urged lawmakers to allow for the chance at its success.
In one statement, 30 leading specialists on nuclear security — that include professors, national security advisers and one former State Department official and former negotiator in the Iran talks Robert J. Einhorn — said that the framework agreement was "a vitally important step forward" that will reinforce the security of the U.S. partners in the region, adding:
We urge policy makers in key capitals to support the deal and the steps necessary to ensure timely implementation and rigorous compliance with the agreement.
Einhorn is also one among 50 signatories — consisting of political leaders, past diplomats and foreign policy and military officials — of another statement published by The Iran Project, an independent organization aimed at improving U.S.-Iran relations that welcomed the framework deal.
The statement, also signed by political icon Madeleine Albright, fell short of encouraging congressional support, instead calling on Congress members not to stymie the progress made by negotiations:
We call on the U.S. Congress to take no action that would impede further progress or undermine the American negotiators’ efforts to complete the final comprehensive agreement on time. The Congress should examine the announced framework, asking itself whether the potential for a comprehensive, verifiable accord is preferable to the current standoff with Iran or other alternatives as a means to ensure that Iran will not acquire a nuclear weapon.
The approval of foreign policy experts and nuclear authorities is in stark contrast to the criticisms of Republican lawmakers, among them freshman Sen. Tom Cotton, who has emerged as the leading critic of the Iran deal, having been responsible for the infamously idiotic GOP letter to Iran. Cotton said that he would prefer airstrikes against Iran's nuclear facilities over the preliminary agreement (thank God he's not the Commander-in-Chief) and would "do everything" he can to stop a final deal.
Conservative figures and lawmakers alike — along with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — criticized the agreement, but David Corn at Mother Jones wrote that claims of the U.S. making concessions to Iran that would result in nuclear weapons were "rhetorical bombs, not statements of fact." While it is true that the deal, at its current state, is a work in progress — and therefore open to unexpected change — the framework agreement has been lauded by many as a surprisingly good one for the U.S., requiring Iran to surrender crucial parts of its nuclear program and, in the bigger picture, improve the historically-frigid relations between the U.S. and Iran.
For now, the Obama administration will have its hands full as it forges ahead with a final agreement by the June 30 deadline while trying to persuade what will surely be a stubbornly difficult Congress of its merits.
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