The hostility amongst members of the Congress is growing against the emerging nuclear deal with Iran, leaving the President with scarce political cover as he the deadline to this deal approaches. Officials in the administration say that they are hoping to complete the agreement by the end of the month. Should a deal be reached it would lead to a metamorphosis of US and Iranian relations and give the President his most important foreign policy achievement of his second term. As details of the still changing talks have leaked out of Geneva where the Secretary of State John Kerry is spear heading the process, lawmakers are increasing their concerns that the administration is granting too many concessions to Tehran.
The critics are not just Republicans who have long battered Obama’s approach to issues of war and peace, but also include Democrats who are echoing the concerns of the Israeli leadership saying that they fear the deal will leave Iran with nuclear weapons capabilities, thereby threatening allies like Israel and further leading to instability in the region.
The recoil came the hardest on Friday when 367 House lawmakers wrote to Obama warning that a deal must “foreclose any pathway to a bomb” before they will support the legislation lifting sanctions on Tehran, a near certain condition if the Iranian leadership are to agree to the deal.
“Should an agreement with Iran be reached, permanent sanctions relief from congressionally-mandated sanctions would require new legislation,” said the letter which was led by Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“In reviewing such an agreement, Congress must be convinced that its terms foreclose any pathway to a bomb, and only then will Congress be able to consider permanent sanctions relief.”
Amongst the members supporting the letter were 129 Democrats, a show of rare bipartisanship in the divided 114th Congress and one that raises plenty of questions about how much support Obama will have from his party if he reaches a deal that would most definitely be opposed by leaders in Israel and the Republican party. Although top Democrats like Reps. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), James Clyburn (S.C.) and Xavier Becerra (Calif.) declined to endorse the letter, it won the support of several other prominent members, including Reps. Steny Hoyer (Md.) and Joseph Crowley (N.Y.). Some Democrats in the upper chamber are also wary of the emerging deal. Behind Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), they’ve threatened legislation installing tougher Iran sanctions this year and are vowing a quick return to the proposal if no deal or what they see as a bad deal is reached.
Senate republicans meanwhile are completely united in opposing the effort with 47 of them endorsing an open letter to Iran that warned a nuclear deal could be revoked by the next president with the stroke of a pen. The letter from Senate Republicans took a far more aggressive tone than the one sent by the House, something which the White House was quick to notice this week.