Opinion – Praising Congress on Iran

Will US Congress pass more sanctions on Iran? US Capitol building. Illustrative. By Joshua Spurlock

Will US Congress pass more sanctions on Iran? US Capitol building. Illustrative. By Joshua Spurlock

It’s not often that the US Congress, especially the Senate, is worthy of praise. That’s more often because of what they don’t do – like passing an annual budget, which hasn’t happened for years. But today, I’m applauding them for doing something, and doing it well: threatening Iran with more sanctions.

Technically, the Senate hasn’t passed the bill yet, but over a quarter of its members are behind a deal that ups the pressure on Iran if they don’t show good faith in the nuclear talks with the world. Indeed, sometimes the best defense is a good offense.

The White House is concerned the move will kill the “good will” in the talks with Iran and ruin the shot at a permanent deal. The Washington Post reported that some Democrats are even trying to prevent the bill from being voted upon for the same reason.

But what they forget, and what doubtless the Democrat and Republican supporters of the bill remember, is that the only reason Iran is talking at all is because of sanctions. President Obama reached out his hand to Iran at the start of his presidency and received a slap in return. And yet, now, after years of sanctions and little good will—even after the stiffest sanctions yet on Iran’s oil industry—then Iran starts to warm up.

It’s then, when the Iranian economy was struggling, that the authoritarian government allowed a perceived moderate to run for president and win. That Hassan Rohani is actually a long-term insider in the regime is irrelevant. The point is that the Iranian government felt the need to present themselves as moderate and open. That’s dramatic.

And how was it achieved? What events precipitated this seismic shift in Iranian calculations? Tough sanctions.

So the idea that now one can just play nice and give Iran a six-month reprieve from even the threat of sanctions is not founded on history. Perhaps the clearest signal is the threat from Iran if Congress does pass new sanctions.

According to the L.A. Times, members of Iran’s parliament are pushing for a bill that would accelerate Iran’s nuclear program well past any civilian use. If Congress makes a move, the bill would cause Iran to shatter the new nuclear agreement with the world and enrich nuclear fuel to 60 percent for nuclear ships and submarines. In case you’re curious, 60 percent is the next logical step from Iran’s current level of research-grade fuel… especially if you’re planning to make nuclear weapons.

Modern nukes require 90 percent enriched uranium. Yet the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) said a normal step to that 90 percent-grade, from where Iran is now, would be moving to 60-percent. In other words, Iran’s parliament is threatening to take the next step towards the bomb.

Wait, you might say, that sounds like the perfect reason NOT to pass more sanctions on Iran. But the catch is twofold: One, Congress’ bill wouldn’t impose sanctions right away, it would just emplace them if Iran breaks the nuclear deal or doesn’t reach a good final agreement to resolve their nuclear dispute with the world in a reasonable amount of time. It prevents Iran from wasting the next six months and then blaming the West for the talks’ failure, all while finishing up their nuclear weapons preparation. It’s a safety measure.

Second, Iran’s parliament is claiming now that their threat to move closer to nuclear weapons is over Congress’ proposed bill. But the L.A. Times cited a senior US Senate aide who said the Iranian threat was originally over the recent American crackdown on sanctions already in place. In other words, it’s an empty threat, or it’s a plan Iran is going to eventually do anyway.

Quite simply, Iran already is working on plans to move their nuclear program forward—towards nuclear weapons. They are already looking for excuses to violate their agreement with the world to freeze their nuclear program.

Why would that change over the next six months?

So instead, Congress is giving Iran serious incentive to compromise by threatening harsh penalties if they don’t. It’s an offer to really reach a deal that will end this crisis peacefully once and for all.

For once, Congress actually want’s to do something that’s risky. But in this case, the worst risk is to do nothing.

(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, December 27, 2013)

What do you think?