As world leaders expressed cautious hope for the deal reached with Iran over its nuclear program, senior Republicans have threatened to derail the accords by calling for new, tougher sanctions to be imposed on the Iranian regime.
Under the deal reached in Geneva in the early hours of Sunday morning the Islamic Republic agreed to freeze significant parts of its nuclear program and increase transparency in exchange for the lifting of $7 billion worth of sanctions which have been punishing the Iranian economy for years.
However top Republican lawmakers have said that now is the time to step up the sanctions against the regime, since, they argue, they have been instrumental in forcing Iran to the negotiating table. Speaking on ABC Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) told the ‘This Week’ program:
“Instead of easing them, now is the time to tighten those sanctions and let’s get a long term deal to prevent them from developing a weapon.”
Kevin McCarthy of California, the House Majority Whip, said that it was time to move forward with new sanctions in the Senate.
However the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Sarif was unequivocal about the consequences of a new round of sanctions:
“If there are new sanctions, then there is no deal. It’s very clear. End of the deal. Because of the inability of one party to maintain their side of the bargain.”
These comments represent the central issue at play in this agreement: trust. The decision to ease the sanctions represents a massive gamble on behalf of America and its allies. However the election of the relatively moderate president Hasan Rouhani has led to a thaw in US-Iran relations and this deal is perhaps the best chance for something like a detente between the two countries, who have been intractable adversaries ever since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 overthrew the staunchly pro-American Shah.
The Republican Party may have its own reasons for calling for further economic sanctions; the deal reached in Geneva represents perhaps the single most important foreign policy success in President Obama’s time in office. His success in convincing the regime of Bashar al-Assad to give up its chemical weapon program was largely (and incorrectly) attributed to the success of Russian diplomacy. The Republican leadership knows that the very public concerns coming out of Jerusalem about the agreement will provide useful ammunition to paint the president as being soft on a violent, reactionary theocracy that has in the past been consistently caught lying about the nature of its nuclear program.
The deal struck in Geneva is in fact the prelude to a more long-term agreement to be negotiated next year, and the gestures of goodwill by both sides will have to be seen through if that is to be a success. These reactionary comments by some GOP members risk jeopardising a deal that has taken months of painful, secret negotiation to secure.
Watch President Obama’s remarks on this historic foreign policy success: