Warhawk Republicans in Congress Pass Bill to Disrupt Obama's Negotiations with Iran

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday that contains an amendment that would establish greater congressional oversight of the White House’s negotiations with Iran.

The provision is part of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a yearly defense-spending bill, and is expected to pass the Senate next week. The amendment requires the White House to report to congressional committees within 30 days of the bill’s passage about the progress of negotiations aimed at ending Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for fewer sanctions.

Senate and House Republicans, who will take over Congress in January, are fiercely opposed to the negotiations. Indeed, after the U.S. and its allies were forced to extend the deadline for reaching an agreement in November, Republican Congressman Peter Roskam, co-author of the amendment, said in a press release:

This vanity project is a desperate attempt by President Obama to find a foreign policy legacy, but it runs a tremendous risk to the United States and the world. It’s time we stop this nonsensical process and reinstate the crippling economic sanctions that brought the radical Iranian regime to the negotiating table in the first place.

In a joint statement, Republican Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Kelly Ayotte also expressed disappointment in the extension of negotiations and said that a failure to reach an agreement should be met with “increased sanctions and a requirement that any final deal between Iran and the United States be sent to Congress for approval.”

In July, the Senate introduced legislation that would require Congress to approve any final agreement with Iran. The bill also threatened to impose further sanctions on Iran if a deal could not be reached. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was able to stall the bill, which was supported by both Democrats and Republicans. However, incoming Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell vowed the law would pass when Republicans take control of the Senate.

Although the President can veto the bill, the political showdown would further destabilize the already fragile negotiations with Iran.

Meanwhile, fundamentalist hardliners in Iran are putting equal pressure on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to abandon talks with the United States. Rouhani was elected on a platform that promised to thaw tensions with the West. An agreement with the West would threaten the power of Iran’s wealthy elite, many of whom have amassed great fortunes as a result of the sanctions that have otherwise crippled the economy. A deal would also politically marginalize Iran’s conservative far right. 

However, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, silenced some of opposition to Rouhani's effort to reconcile with the West. In a speech to a group of Basij Militia last week, he expressed support for continuing talks with the United States. He said: "I do not oppose extending the negotiations for the same reason that I did not oppose them in the first place."

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