By Farid Mirbagheri
The approaching deadline of September 20 for a US congressional vote on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal between Iran, the US and five other countries reached last July in Vienna has sharpened focus on the details of the agreement by members of the Congress. However, irrespective of the doubts by some congressional members on some aspects of the nuclear deal it is prudent not to reject the agreement. Why?
The coalition built between the Five plus One (permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) in imposing biting sanctions on Iran is unlikely to return. Should Congress vote down the deal, Russia and China, if not all five countries, will in all likelihood abide by the terms of the agreement in removing sanctions. They would not feel bound by the US congressional rejection and would appear justified in invoking resolution 2231 of the UN Security Council adopted on 20 July that endorses the nuclear deal.
In effect, international trade will resume with Iran, the richest country in the world in terms of known gas reserves, but once again US companies will be left out due to congressional disapproval. One could almost sense the elation amongst US competitors by the prospect of their chief rival voting herself out of competition altogether.
However, there is another more compelling imperative why the deal has to be voted for on the Hill. If Washington is left out of the agreement, it will all but lose influence on its implementation. Just as the US was unable to check Japan’s invasion of Manchuria or combat Italy’s aggression into Africa in the inter-war period, partly because Congress had rejected US membership in the League of Nations after President Wilson had signed it, there would now be very little the White House could do in case of any infringements of the nuclear accord. Once out of the agreement, with less legal or political leverage on the process, the government in Washington may then feel compelled to resort to military force against Iran; a scenario all wish to avoid.
The point here is not the merits or the drawbacks of the nuclear agreement with Tehran. The time for that discussion has passed. The question has now changed from what kind of an agreement with Tehran into one that ensures compliance with the terms of the deal in hand. The security aspects as well as obvious financial losses to US companies, if the accord is rejected, are too obvious to be overlooked by the US legislators.
Professor Farid Mirbagheri holds the Dialogue Chair in Middle Eastern Studies in the Department of European Studies and International Relations at the University of Nicosia