GOP Poised to Block Deal

GOP Poised to Block DealGOP Poised to Block Deal

Republicans are flexing their muscles and threatening to block US President Barack Obama from cutting a nuclear deal with Iran on his own terms, the Hill reported on Monday.

Iran and the six major powers (the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany) have until November 24 under an interim agreement to reach a final nuclear deal that would impose temporary constraints on Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for the phasing-out of sanctions, or seek another extension of talks.

While the GOP will not take control of the Senate until January 3, they are quickly making it clear they are serious about closely vetting any agreement. As the deadline approaches, Republicans fear the administration is too eager to reach a deal and could concede too much in talks.  

  Chilling Message

Senator Lindsey Graham took to the Senate floor on Thursday to ask for unanimous consent to schedule a vote on a bill that would give Congress final approval over any deal, or else reinstate tough sanctions on Iran.  

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy quickly rejected the request, arguing that scheduling a vote on the deal would be "premature at this point." He said it would "send a fairly chilling message" that US officials at the table with Iran did not have full authority to negotiate an agreement.

But when Republicans take control of the Senate, they could move to pass that bill or push legislation from Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez and Senator Mark Kirk which would reinstate sanctions if Iran violates any deal.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid delayed a vote on the bill earlier this year under pressure from the White House, which argued that it could sink any chance of reaching a deal. Senator Mitch McConnell, the next majority leader, though has expressed support for tough sanctions.

Experts believe negotiators will extend their talks beyond the November deadline for several months, which would allow Republicans to pass Iran legislation before a deal is reached.

 If negotiators do reach a deal before Republicans take power, the GOP can still try to stand in the way. Republicans could move a bill requiring congressional approval of any deal or pass legislation defunding implementation.

  Good Cop, Crazy Cop

Some experts said GOP pressure and oversight before a deal is reached would strengthen US negotiators by creating clear red lines they could not cross in talks.

"In any negotiation, you need a good cop and a bad cop. People in the room need to have the backstop that they can point to," said Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the conservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Trita Parsi, founder and president of the National Iranian American Council, which supports the talks, disagreed.  "If the US Congress is moving forward with sanctions legislation, it sends a signal that the US is not serious in reaching a deal, and the Iranians are not going to entertain this process," he said.

"This is good cop and crazy cop."

On Wednesday, Kirk and Menendez issued a statement seeking to set their expectations of a final nuclear deal.

"We believe that a good deal will dismantle, not just stall, Iran’s … nuclear program," they said.

“If a potential deal does not achieve these goals, we will work with our colleagues in Congress to act decisively, as we have in the past.”

Robert Einhorn, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former Obama adviser on Iran negotiations, warned that if sanctions legislation goes too far, it could risk unraveling international support for pressure on Iran.