Iran’s enemies and friends set for another clash in DC

On Thursday, for example, James Risch of Idaho, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and critic of the deal, tweeted that Iran was pushing President Joe Biden to accept terms this could allow him to “accelerate the work of nuclear weapons”. The White House National Security Council took the unusual step of tweet a reproach: “Nothing here is true. We would never accept such conditions.

On Friday, a White House official declined to go into specifics when pressed on the administration’s messaging plans, saying it was premature to talk about tactics or strategy because there is no has no agreement yet to relaunch the deal.

“If an agreement is reached,” the official added, “we are fully prepared to defend it publicly, to inform the Hill, experts and stakeholders, and to coordinate with allies and partners, as we We have done so throughout this process and in line with our approach to all political priorities.

The back-and-forth this time around should be less intense than in 2015, when President Barack Obama’s administration was mocked by the right for trying to create a media “echo chamber” to sell the agreement to the public.

But again, the geopolitical stakes are high and the fight will likely center in Congress, where lawmakers will have the opportunity to substantially revise the deal to revive it. And while the White House can again rely on a presidential veto as a safety net in the unlikely event lawmakers get enough votes to kill the stimulus effort, this time there will be a looming midterm election. to consider.

To be clear, negotiations to reinstate the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, could still fail or be delayed. Iran is pushing for changes to the proposed roadmap to restore the deal, and the United States is weighing options. That said, after more than a year of talks, there is notable optimism among various parties that the deal can soon be revived.

So the battle lines are hardening once again – on think tank panels, television appearances and in silent conversations at secure government facilities.

Israel, the foreign government most vehemently opposed to the nuclear deal, is sending its national security adviser to Washington next week to bring the country’s well-known concerns directly to the White House. Meanwhile, Israeli officials are turning to the media to make their reservations known and attack Biden and his aides.

During the last comments to AxiosIsraeli officials even questioned whether the US president and his team were “fully aware” of what the Israelis see as “concessions” included in the proposed roadmap to reinstate the 2015 deal.

It’s the type of insinuation that draws the stares and fury of people in and around the administration, who deny the existence of new concessions and say the president is fully implicated.

“We are in intensive and constant discussions with the Israelis on Iran,” the White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic, said Friday. “There is no greater supporter of Israel’s security than Joe Biden.”

This time, Israeli leaders are likely to be less openly hostile than seven years ago, when then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even gave a speech at a joint meeting of Congress in an attempt to defeat the ‘OK. The current Israeli government is led by interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid, and the country has elections scheduled for later this year.

But Israeli officials have a strong ally in Washington: the US Israel Public Affairs Committee. AIPAC reportedly spent tens of millions of dollars in 2015 trying to kill the original deal. When asked what AIPAC has planned for this year, a spokesperson didn’t answer the question directly, but said the group had “serious concerns” about the recovery effort.

Meanwhile, J Street, the left-leaning pro-Israel group, plans to rally support to revive the deal. Its representatives warn that they want to review the recovery roadmap first, but if that’s what they expect, “we have a whole campaign ready to go,” said Dylan Williams, senior vice president. of the group.

This campaign will include everything from blitz phone calls to social media ads, he said. The campaign is largely targeting moderate Democrats, some of whom did not back the deal in 2015, and new lawmakers whose positions may not yet be clear.

The 2015 Iran deal lifted numerous U.S. and international economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for tough curbs on Tehran’s nuclear program.

Then-President Donald Trump scrapped the deal in 2018, saying it was too narrow and time-limited. He reimposed the original sanctions against Iran and also added new ones. A year later, after other countries party to the deal were unable to offer it sanctions relief, Iran began violating the terms of the deal. Although Iran has always insisted that it has no intention of building a nuclear weapon, it is now much closer to that possibility.

At the same time, as talks to restore the deal took place, Iran has been accused of kidnapping and assassination attempts against Americans, including the former national security adviser of the Trump era, John Bolton. Some of these plots are believed to be in retaliation for the Trump administration’s killing of Iran’s top military commander, Qassem Soleimani, in 2020. US officials are also investigating whether Iran played a direct role in a recent attack that seriously injured novelist Salman Rushdie.

Michael Singh, an analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said such developments impose a greater sense of realism on the debate than in 2015, when some supporters of the deal hoped it would lead to bigger changes in foreign policy. .

“What we’re seeing from the administration is more realism and more resignation,” said Singh, a longtime skeptic of the deal. “I think they are less enthusiastic about it. You won’t hear any arguments that this will transform US-Iranian relations. But I think what you’ll hear very loudly is that it’s our only option.

In 2015, Obama and his aides did little to back down, attacking social and traditional media to push through what they saw as a core part of their foreign policy legacy. The administration’s effort included more than 100 engagements between Obama and lawmakers. In the end, Obama’s team won enough support among Senate Democrats that Republicans couldn’t break the filibuster in their bid to stop the deal.

One of the reasons there could be a debate in Congress this time around is that Congress passed a 2015 law that gave it the power to review any such deal with Iran. Lawmakers have argued that the legislation, the Iran Nuclear Deal Review Act, or INARA, grants Congress the right to review “the deal to reinstate the deal.”

Biden administration officials initially suggested they disagreed with this interpretation, but eventually agreed to submit any agreement reached in Vienna. These discussions between Iran and the United States have been indirect, with European officials playing the role of intermediaries.

The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies is an organization that is already experienced in these public relations battles. The hawkish think tank has long opposed the original nuclear deal.

FDD spokesman Joe Dougherty said the think tank planned to step up its use of billboards, op-eds and other traditional means to get across its view that the 2015 deal should not be restored.

One of the arguments of his analysts, he said, is that what is being restored is not really the original chord but “a lesser chord”.


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