Repub­li­can Party barbs bring about nu­clear agree­ment doubts in Iran

The China Post - - COMMENTARY - BY ARTHUR MACMIL­LAN

Fierce crit­i­cism of the Iran nu­clear agree­ment by fig­ures in the U.S. op­po­si­tion Repub­li­can Party seek­ing the U.S. pres­i­dency has raised a big ques­tion in Tehran — will fu­ture Amer­i­can lead­ers keep their side of the bar­gain?

De­spite ten­sion and con­tin­u­ing mu­tual mis­trust, Iran’s gov­ern­ment and U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s White House are part­ners in the same fight, telling their do­mes­tic au­di­ences that the July 14 deal is as good as it gets.

But with the U.S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tion only 15 months away, op­po­nents of last month’s his­toric pact — par­tic­u­larly those who are lin­ing up to re­place Obama — pour scorn on it.

No lead­ing Repub­li­can con­tender has pledged to stand by the agree­ment be­tween Iran, the United States and five other world pow­ers. Sev­eral have promised to rip it up if they are elected.

On Wed­nes­day, Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial hope­ful Jeb Bush called the deal a “farce,” say­ing rules for in­spect­ing Iran’s nu­clear sites were un­clear.

Ev­ery such in­ter­ven­tion raises doubt in Iran about whether the U.S. “can fol­low through,” said Foad Izadi, a partly U.S.-ed­u­cated po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Tehran.

“If we get some crazy per­son in the White House the po­ten­tial is there for the deal to fall apart,” he said.

“It’s not the next 18 months that both­ers me but what hap­pens when Obama goes. Peo­ple are con­cerned about that.”

When the nu­clear deal’s terms were con­cluded — in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions on Iran will be lifted in ex­change for curbs on its nu­clear pro­gram — it came against heavy odds and op­po­si­tion, par­tic­u­larly from Is­rael.

Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates and law­mak­ers have since kept the fight against the deal alive.

Obama Veto Likely

Iran and the U.S., the domi- nant in­ter­na­tional player in the talks led by U.S. for­eign min­is­ter John Kerry, broke off diplo­matic re­la­tions in 1980, af­ter the Is­lamic revo­lu­tion in Tehran the pre­vi­ous year.

For many Amer­i­cans, in­clud­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the U. S. Congress, the ran­cor with Iran is epit­o­mized by the 444- day U. S. hostage cri­sis. Af­ter stu­dents stormed the walls of the U. S. em­bassy in Tehran they even­tu­ally pa­raded cap­tive diplo­mats in black blind­folds.

The Repub­li­can- dom­i­nated Se­nate and House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives are ex­pected in Septem­ber to pass a res­o­lu­tion op­pos­ing the nu­clear deal.

Although Obama is likely to have enough votes from mem­bers of his Demo­cratic Party to veto that mea­sure, the par­ti­san­ship high­lights the trou­ble the agree­ment could face should a Repub­li­can win the White House next Novem­ber.

Amir Mo­heb­bian, a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and strate­gist with close ties to Iran’s lead­er­ship, said that though they prob­a­bly do not re­al­ize it, the Repub­li­cans are gift­ing Iran a “get-out” over the nu­clear deal.

“If Mr. Obama can­not man­age this con­flict be­tween Repub­li­cans and Democrats we can say to the world ‘ we did ev­ery­thing we could,’ but the rea­son for this deal’s de­feat would not be Iran.

“No one could say Iran showed no flex­i­bil­ity and did not want to solve the prob­lem. It would be seen as the fault of the United States.”

Such a stance would also make other op­tions re­gard­ing Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram, in­clud­ing mil­i­tary strikes, much harder, he said.

“Af­ter these talks, any hard mul­ti­lat­eral ac­tion against Iran would be very dif­fi­cult for the U.S. to jus­tify to Euro­pean coun­tries, es­pe­cially af­ter Iraq.”

“If the U.S. goes down the uni­lat­eral route it will be worse for them than for us,” Mo­heb­bian said.

‘Ir­ra­tional en­emy’

The bat­tle in Congress over the deal has co­in­cided with a public re­la­tions push in Washington and Tehran.

Ira­nian For­eign Min­is­ter Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif, Tehran’s lead ne­go­tia­tor in the nu­clear talks, re­cently con­ducted sev­eral high-level brief­ings in the cap­i­tal about the deal.

De­spite the op­po­si­tion in Congress, and crit­i­cism from some Ira­nian gen­er­als, Zarif said on July 29 he had “no con­cern or worry” that the agree­ment’s terms would be fully im­ple­mented within months.

Even so, the Is­lamic re­pub­lic’s supreme leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei has not con­clu­sively backed the deal.

The 76-year-old has praised Zarif and his ne­go­tia­tors but re­peat­edly casts doubt on the trust­wor­thi­ness of the United States.

“They think that through this agree­ment — the fate of which is not clear as no one knows if it will be ap­proved here or in Amer­ica — they could find a way to in­trude into the coun­try,” Khamenei said on Mon­day.

As such the White House race stands to un­der­mine Amer­ica’s po­si­tion on the nu­clear agree­ment, Mo­heb­bian ar­gued, par­tic­u­larly as no Repub­li­can can­di­date has pre­sented a clear al­ter­na­tive.

“The U.S. is show­ing no sign its po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship is as pow­er­ful as it claims to be,” he said, cit­ing the Congress-White House split. “Our en­emy is not be­hav­ing ra­tio­nally,” he added.

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