Expect pushback anyway, if the recent past is any harbinger.
Just last month, in an attempt to head off such an agreement, House Speaker John Boehner invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to preemptively blast it before Congress, and 47 senators sent a letter to the Iranian leadership warning them away from a deal.
The debate that has already begun since the announcement of the new framework will likely result in more heat than light. It will not be helped by the gathering swirl of dubious assumptions and doubtful assertions.
The most misleading assertion, despite universal rejection by experts, is that the negotiations' objective at the outset was the total elimination of any nuclear program in Iran. That is the position of Netanyahu and his acolytes in the U.S. Congress. But that is not and never was the objective. If it had been, there would have been no Iranian team at the negotiating table.
Rather, the objective has always been
to structure an agreement or series of agreements so that Iran could not covertly develop a nuclear arsenal before the United States and its allies could respond. The new framework has exceeded expectations in achieving that goal. It would reduce Iran's low-enriched uranium stockpile, cut by two-thirds its number of installed centrifuges and implement a rigorous inspection regime.
Another dubious assumption of opponents is that the Iranian nuclear program is a covert weapons program. Despite sharp accusations by some in the United States and its allies, Iran denies having such a program, and U.S. intelligence contends
that Iran has not yet made the decision to build a nuclear weapon.
Iran's continued cooperation with International Atomic Energy Agency inspections is further evidence on this point, and we'll know even more about Iran's program in the coming months and years because of the deal. In fact, the inspections provisions that are part of this agreement are designed to protect against any covert action
by the Iranians.
What's more, the rhetoric of some members of Congress has implied that the negotiations have been between only the United States and Iran (i.e., the 47 senators' letter warning that a deal might be killed by Congress or a future president). This of course is not the case. The talks were between Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (United States, United Kingdom, France, China and Russia) plus Germany, dubbed the P5+1.
While the United States has played a leading role in the effort, it negotiated the terms alongside its partners. If the agreement reached by the P5+1 is rejected by Congress, it could result in an unraveling of the sanctions on Iran and threaten NATO cohesion in other areas.
Another questionable assertion
is that this agreement contains a sunset clause, after which Iran will be free to do as it pleases. Again, this is not the case.
Some of the restrictions on Iran's nuclear activities, such as uranium enrichment, will be eased or eliminated over time, as long as 15 years. But most importantly, the framework agreement includes Iran's ratification of the Additional Protocol
, which allows IAEA inspectors expanded access to nuclear sites both declared and nondeclared. This provision will be permanent. It does not sunset.
Thus, going forward, if Iran decides to enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels, monitors will be able to detect such a move in a matter of days and alert the U.N. Security Council.
Many in Congress have said that the agreement should be a formal treaty requiring the Senate to "advise and consent." But the issue is not suited for a treaty.
Treaties impose equivalent obligations on all signatories. For example, the New START treaty limits Russia and the United States to 1,550 deployed strategic warheads.
But any agreement with Iran will not be so balanced. The restrictions and obligations in the final framework agreement will be imposed almost exclusively on Iran. The P5+1 are obligated only to ease and eventually remove most but not all economic sanctions, which were imposed as leverage to gain this final deal.
Finally some insist that any agreement must address Iranian missile programs, human rights violations or support for Hamas or Hezbollah. As important as these issues are, and they must indeed be addressed, they are unrelated to the most important aim of a nuclear deal: preventing a nuclear Iran. To include them in the negotiations would be a poison pill.
This agreement should be judged on its merits and on how it affects the security of our negotiating partners and allies, including Israel. Those judgments should be fact-based, not based on questionable assertions or dubious assumptions.