United Nations Security Council Approves Iranian Nuclear Deal
The U.N. Security Council has approved the Iranian nuclear deal, and now the ball is in Congress's court.
The United Nations Security Council voted this morning to approve the deal that had been reached last week between Iran and the so-called “P5+1” powers regarding Iran’s nuclear research program, but the real fight is yet to come in the United States Congress:
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations Security Council on Monday unanimously approved a resolution that creates the basis for international economic sanctions against Iran to be lifted, a move that incited a furious reaction in Israel and potentially sets up an angry showdown in Congress.
The 15-0 vote for approval of the resolution —104 pages long including annexes and lists — was written in Vienna by diplomats who negotiated a landmark pact last week that limits Iran’s nuclear capabilities in exchange for ending the sanctions.
Iran has pledged to let in international monitors to inspect its facilities for the next 10 years and other measures that were devised to guarantee that its nuclear energy activities are purely peaceful.
The Security Council resolution, which is legally binding, lays out the steps required only for the lifting of United Nations sanctions.
It has no legal consequence on the sanctions imposed separately by the United States and the European Union.
The European Union also approved the Iran nuclear deal on Monday, putting in motion the lifting of its own sanctions, which include prohibitions on the purchase of Iranian oil. Europe will continue to prohibit the export of ballistic missile technology and sanctions related to human rights.
Diplomats have warned that if the United States Congress refuses to lift American penalties against Iran, the Iranians may renege on their commitments as well, which could result in a collapse of the entire deal.
The resolution takes effect in 90 days, a time frame negotiated in Vienna to allow Congress, where members have expressed strong distrust of the agreement, to review it. President Obama, who has staked much of his foreign policy ambitions on the Iran pact, has vowed to veto a congressional rejection of the nuclear accord.
The resolution will not completely lift all Council restrictions on Iran. It maintains an arms embargo, and sets up a panel to review the import of sensitive technology on a case-by-case basis.
It also sets up a way to renew sanctions if Iran does not abide by its commitments. In the event of an unresolved dispute over Iran’s enrichment activities, the United Nations sanctions snap back automatically after 30 days. To avoid the sanctions renewal requires a vote of the Council — giving skeptics, namely the United States, an opportunity to veto it.
Mr. Obama’s critics in Congress, including at least two senior Democrats, objected to the Council vote’s taking place before Congress has had a chance to debate it.
The United States ambassador, Samantha Power, speaking immediately after the vote, told the Council that sanctions relief would start only when Iran “verifiably” meets its obligations under the deal.
“We have a responsibility to test diplomacy,” she said.
As The Wall Street Journal notes, the U.N. Resolution will not go into effect for ninety days in part to give the United States Congress a change to review the deal itself and vote to either approve or disapprove under the provisions negotiated between Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, Ranking Minority Committee Member Ben Cardin, and the White House. Under that agreement, Congress has until essentially mid-September to either approve or disapprove the deal and, if it disapproves the deal then President Obama will veto their resolution and opponents of the deal would have to find the votes to override the President’s veto. As I explained last week, at the moment it appears that it will be difficult if not impossible for Republicans to override the President’s veto, meaning that the deal will most likely go forward.
As it stands, of course, the deal is already going forward as far as much of the rest of the world is concerned. In addition to the United Nations, the European Union has also approved the deal and Russia and China are both on board as well. Yesterday, British Prime Minister David Cameron called the deal better than the status quo and better than any alternative. Indeed, at this point it seems as though the only opposition to the deal being expressed publicly is coming from Republicans in the United States and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, If by some chance these parties are successful in their efforts to have Congress block the deal from the U.S. perspective, it seems fairly clear that they will end up making the situation worse rather than better. In the event of such a disapproval by Congress, the Iranians may well decide to repudiate the deal themselves and move forward with a nuclear weapons research program that has been on hold while this deal was being negotiated. In that case, the situation in the Middle East will become even more dangerous than it already is. Alternatively, a defeat for the Administration in Congress could lead the other nations that were involved in the negotiations to decided to go ahead with a deal on their own regardless of what the United States does. In that case, the entire international sanctions regime would collapse and we would have much less leverage over the Islamic Republic than we do today.
As for the deal itself, it seems to me from what I have been able to review on the matter that it’s a fairly good one and that, assuming its terms are adhered, it will essentially eliminate the legitimate concerns of the nations in the Middle East and Europe, and the United States, regarding the potential dangers of an Iran with a nuclear weapon. Conservative critics of the deal have focused on its imperfections and, certainly, there are things we had to give away in order to get the agreement. However, as Jeffrey Lewis says in Foreign Policy, the deal that was reached in Vienna is actually a very good one given the realities of the international situation. Rejecting it, as Republican critics would do, isn’t going to make the world safer and is in fact likely to make the world more dangerous. So, the ball’s in their court.