Aug. 17, 2015
Congress Should Step Up to Block the Iran Agreement – Joseph I. Lieberman (Washington Post)
- I was a member of the Senate when, between 2009 and 2012, Congress developed a series of bills that dramatically increased pressure on Tehran for its illicit nuclear activities, including adopting a measure in late 2011 that effectively banned Iran from selling oil – its economic lifeblood – on international markets. In every case, senior Obama administration officials worked to block congressional efforts, warning that they were unnecessary, counterproductive and even dangerous.
- In fact, it was only because of the sanctions adopted by Congress, and ultimately signed by President Obama, that sufficient economic pressure was put on the Iranian government that its leaders came to the negotiating table. Our allies and partners did not always welcome new restrictions on doing business in Tehran, but in the end, they decided it was more important to do business in the United States.
- The same drama played out just a few months ago, as Congress debated whether it should review the nuclear agreement. Here, too, the White House insisted that requiring legislative review and approval of a nuclear agreement with Iran was obstructive and damaging. But when it was clear that a strong bipartisan coalition was converging around the idea, the administration withdrew its opposition and the president signed the legislation.
- If a bipartisan supermajority does in fact begin to cohere in criticism of the undeniable loopholes and inadequacies of the agreement, it is likely the administration will adjust its position. The best chance for a better deal, in other words, is overwhelming bipartisan pressure from Capitol Hill about the need for one.
- The Obama administration claims that this is the best agreement possible because Iran will go no further. That conclusion overlooks two truths: First, the Iranians are historically capable of adjusting positions they have claimed were immovable to new political realities, and, second, Iran, because of its depleted economy, needs an agreement much more than we do. Congress has the power now to act on these two realities.
The writer was a member of the U.S. Senate from 1989 to 2013.