Since the announcement by the Obama Administration that a deal had been struck with Iran over developing nuclear weapons, the public has been slowly learning more details. Yet there are some details that remain secret, even to Congress. Still the Senate is expected to make a decision, even as the UN presses forward on the multi-nation deal.
What is known is that Iran will get access to between $150-$400 billion dollars that has been frozen due to sanctions – the variance being how the opposing sides account for the value and liquidity of these assets. Iran will also keep several thousand centrifuges capable of creating nuclear material. Iran also has the ability to engage in ballistic missile development after 8 years, with conventional weapons available after 5 years. The last critical piece is inspections, which will be discussed in a moment.
It has been noted, by President Obama (on July 15, 2015) as well as opponents to the deal, that Iran will be able to use the influx of capital to fund terrorism across the globe without restriction. While supporters of the deal state that if Iran breaks the deal international sanctions will “snapback” in place, opponents (and Iran) have stated that once the funds are released there is no realistic means to lockdown the funds once a violation occurs. Iran also has steadily refuted various claims by the White House on the nature and specifics of the deal. It should also be noted that Iran has stated, during negotiations and since, that its efforts to destroy America are unchanged.
Perhaps the most critical fact about the Iran nuclear deal are the secret provisions of the deal. Provisions that are so secretive, no documentation of their contents exists within the US Government as explained in Congressional hearings by Secretary of State John Kerry. One of the few facts on these provisional side deals between the UN, IAEA, and Iran that is known was just revealed by the Associated Press on August 19, 2015.
“Iran will be allowed to use its own inspectors to investigate a site it has been accused of using to develop nuclear arms, operating under a secret agreement with the U.N. agency that normally carries out such work, according to a document seen by The Associated Press.”
Given these facts, all the Republican members of the Senate, and 2 high profile Democrats (Sen. Charles Schumer and Sen. Bob Menendez) have either declared their opposition to the deal or are leaning against it. Democrats have been more mixed as the pressure to support the Administration has been piling on. The well documented attacks, by Democrats and the White House, against Sen. Schumer for his opposition have clearly defined the issue as a partisan battle – internally as well as against Republicans.
Thus far, 26 Democrat Senators are supporting the Iran deal (according to TheHill.com). They are:
- Sen. Tammy Baldwin; Sen. Sherrod Brown; Sen. Barbara Boxer; Sen. Joe Donnelly; Sen. Dick Durbin; Sen. Dianne Feinstein; Sen. Al Franken; Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand; Sen. Martin Heinrich; Sen. Mazie Hirono; Sen. Tim Kaine; Sen. Amy Klobuchar; Sen. Angus King; Sen. Patrick Leahy; Sen. Ed Markey; Sen. Claire McCaskill; Sen. Chris Murphy; Sen. Bill Nelson; Sen. Jack Reed; Sen. Bernie Sanders; Sen. Brian Schatz; Sen. Jeanne Shaheen; Sen. Jon Tester; Sen. Tom Udall; Sen. Elizabeth Warren; and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse.
Of the other 18 Democrat Senators, President Obama needs all but 9 of the remaining Democrats. If so then he will have enough votes to counter a override of his veto – that is guaranteed to arrive on any decision to reject the Iran nuclear deal. But many of those remaining Senators have concerns that seem to be either unaddressed or refuted by known terms of the deal. As Sen. Bob Casey stated on June 14, 2015,
“Preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon is critical to our national security and that of our partners in the region, especially Israel. That’s why I have consistently sponsored and supported sanctions against Iran, which brought the regime to the table in the first place, and legislation like the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act and the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015.”
If President Obama can sway 4 out of these 13 Democrat Senators, either via the merits of (the known parts of ) the deal or the threat of political action (as Sen. Schumer is an example) then the White House will win and the Iran Deal will ultimately be accepted. The key 13 Democrats are:
- Sen. Michael Bennet; Sen. Cory Booker; Sen. Maria Cantwell; Sen. Ben Cardin; Sen. Bob Casey; Sen. Chris Coons; Sen. Heidi Heitkamp; Sen. Barbara Mikulski; Sen. Patty Murray; Sen. Gary Peters; Sen. Debbie Stabenow; Sen. Mark Warner; and Sen. Ron Wyden.
Ultimately, the Obama Administration has turned the Iran nuclear deal into an internal battle over partisan support, instead of a national safety issue. With secret terms, the funding of terrorism, and development of ICBM’s (whose only purpose is to deliver WMD’s to the US and its allies) the final decisions of 13 Democrat Senators may well be about re-election first and foremost. How this will play out in a nuclear Middle East only future history will determine.