Sunday, hours before the foreign policy heads of Iran and six involved powers (Germany, China, United States, France, Great Britain and Russia) were to meet in Lausanne to make an agreement, which seemed possible, on the size of the Iranian nuclear program, a group of 47 Republican senators caused confusion by directing an open letter to the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, that threatened to torpedo any agreement that might be reached.
The senators backed the idea of Tom Cotton, a newcomer to the capital elected by Arkansas, by threatening to produce legislation that would make it mandatory to ratify the agreement in Congress and take away the president’s powers to lift the sanctions on Iran. Frank Walter Steinmeier, the German foreign minister, did not hold back, venting, according to news agencies: “The negotiations are difficult enough, so we didn’t actually need further irritations. On the Iranian side, the first reaction was distrust in Americans’ credibility. John Kerry, secretary of state, had to intervene, asking for a bit more common sense, which Republicans seemed to lack. Officially, Vice President Joe Biden and the State Department considered the action “damaging to American security.”
The shot in the foot fired in the capital in the area of foreign policy is not new, but this time the 47 senators, including some Democrats, went beyond the usual limit, making it a legitimate question as to whether today’s truths in Congress will be there tomorrow, if the foreign policy principles and treaties signed by a president of the United States are valid during their administration or whether, as expected in international law, they end up forming the monument to North American foreign policy.
Hate for Barack Obama appears to irrationally substitute for political disagreement that might exist in regard to the president. It was already apparent in social media and now has become an integral component of the Republican position, especially if we keep in mind that the chairman of Senate Foreign Relations, Bob Corker, did not distance himself from this letter, quite the contrary. It is legitimate to admit that what is happening today with Iran could happen tomorrow with any other country, friend or not of the United States. The agreement whose negotiations began this Sunday is rather complex; it seeks to limit Iran’s nuclear capacity, keep a close eye on its nuclear program, define a number of technical issues (which will be adjusted later) and, in parallel, establish a schedule that makes each step of this process correspond to a phase for lifting sanctions imposed by the USA as well as the European Union.
If talks to do not produce any result by the end of March and the responsibility for this is attributed to the lack of trust provoked by the actions of the 47 senators, no one will be able to guarantee that talks will not come to a long-term impasse. Especially if the scenario of Benjamin Netanyahu winning elections this week in Israel is confirmed, very improbably, but not impossible. The current prime minister of Israel ignited a fire in Congress last week in a session boycotted by the majority of Democrats and condemned by many American Jewish associations. Invited by Republicans, Netanyahu visited the USA in the middle of the Israeli election campaign, merely for the sake of elections. Criticized at home for the terrible performance of the economy and financial difficulties in Israel, the losing prime minister played the security card, demonizing Iran as a threat to peace and stability. Republicans bought it. As talks of this type must be based on the principles of trust, the letter from the 47 senators and Republican support for Netanyahu may lead to Iran planning to first debate the guarantees of irreversibility of the agreement with changing power in Washington and only afterward agree to discuss other issues. Additionally, nothing guarantees that, in the case of failure, Europeans headed by Germany and France do not intend to gradually lift an embargo that hurts them as well or show themselves reluctant to support Washington with new sanctions, against Iran or other countries.
Meanwhile, Tehran has shown itself to be an essential element in the fight against the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” that is trying to expand its area of operations.
On Sunday, it was revealed that its recruitment activity is being detected in the United States.
An agreement with Iran does not please Israel, Saudi Arabia and its allies in the Persian Gulf, but the truth is that, without trade relations and dialogue, it is not possible to have any kind of influence on the policies of another country and, like it or not, the “Arab Springs” ended up revealing changes in the Iran of Hassan Rouhani.