Republicans in Congress may have failed to stop the landmark nuclear accord with Iran, but that doesn’t mean they’ve finished bloviating.
As the news came in that President Barack Obama had secured enough votes to override any objections to the deal from Congress, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed to re-impose any sanctions the deal lifts.
This is despite the fact that the ambassadors of the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China, and Russia had just briefed U.S. senators and told them that they were going to lift their own nuclear-related sanctions against Iran, as soon as international authorities verified its compliance.
McConnell apparently looked into his crystal ball and determined that Iran would “inevitably” cheat. So, he said, the United States might as well go back on its own word first — and spare the trouble of re-imposing sanctions later.
McConnell doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
First of all, this is essentially an advanced version of the inspection regime the international community developed for Saddam Hussein. Experts will know almost immediately if the Iranians cheat. McConnell’s complaints have nothing to do with security and everything to do with grandstanding.
And second, what McConnell and his warmongering pals in the Senate either don’t know or have chosen to ignore is that very, very few U.S. sanctions on Iran will be lifted with this deal — only those related to its nuclear program and its overseas frozen assets.
The only trade sanctions that will be lifted anytime soon are those related to civil aviation. (Iran has a terrible air safety record, since sanctions have prevented its airlines from ordering replacement parts from overseas. Hundreds have died as a result.)
The only new American companies that will be allowed to sell anything to Iran are companies like Boeing and others that make parts for jets. They’re the ones who will get hurt if Congress imposes new trade sanctions while the rest of the world lifts them.
Well, them and anyone who dies in a plane crash as a result.
U.S. companies have been itching do business with Iran for decades, but sanctions have prevented that. The Europeans, though, can sell anything they want. They don’t have the same restrictions that Congress put on U.S. businesses back in 1995, prohibiting the sale of virtually anything made in the United States to Iran over concerns about Iran’s human rights record.
The Europeans, the Chinese, and the Russians will likely have a full-blown trade relationship with Iran by the end of the year. That’s fine. Good for us for standing on principle, I guess.
But threatening to “re-impose” sanctions is just silly. New sanctions will only wreck the improvements the Obama administration has made in relations with Iran, damage Obama’s foreign policy legacy, and make a military conflict with Iran more likely.
Maybe that’s what McConnell wants. If so, let him say it, rather than skirting around the issue.
OtherWords columnist John Kiriakou is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. He’s a former CIA counterterrorism officer and senior investigator for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.