Virginia election shows Biden needs bipartisan approach to Iran
Elections have consequences. Republican victories in the race for Governor of Virginia and the House of Delegates, as well as a greenhouse New Jersey gubernatorial race, not only signal a domestic political earthquake, but will likely hamper the Biden administration’s efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. If Biden wants a deal to last longer than his time in the White House, he must negotiate a deal with bipartisan Senate support that the administration can ratify as the proper treaty. Otherwise, history will repeat itself and the next Republican president will step aside from the Biden deal, just like Donald trumpDonald Trump Biden sends 2016 climate treaty to Senate for ratification US, China relax restrictions on journalists Americans continue to spend MORE dismissed the case Barack obamaBarack Hussein ObamaBriahna Joy Gray: the White House prepares Harris to overtake it made with Tehran.
Nothing is permanent in American politics. January 20, President BidenJoe Biden Idaho State House Passes Vaccinated Workers’ Compensation Bill Biden Sends 2016 Climate Treaty To Senate For Ratification Rubio Pledges To Slow Candidates For Biden Ambassador To China And Spain MORE was inaugurated with a slim majority in the House and Senate, and an approval rate of nearly 60 percent. Ten months later, the president’s political weight is clearly diminishing and his approval the coast is under water. Based on the results of the Virginia and New Jersey races, the Republicans are now expected take control of the House and Senate in the 2022 midterm elections and may be able to mount a successful presidential candidacy in 2024.
These results are a problem for Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who wants Biden guarantee that the United States will no longer withdraw from the nuclear deal. At the moment, Tehran is income billions of dollars from oil sales and other trade thanks to Biden’s decision not to apply many of the Trump-era sanctions that remain on the books. But Khamenei wants the sanctions to go completely and stay away for good.
Yet for full and permanent sanctions relief to be successful, it is necessary to secure the support of large bipartite majorities in the House and Senate, as lifting the sanctions once and for all will require a change in the law. If sanctions relief becomes a partisan issue – as it is now – its success will depend on the political fortunes of the respective political parties.
Biden’s negotiating team will be traveling in Vienna for a meeting on November 29 with representatives from China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and Iran, the other parties to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, as the 2015 agreement is officially known.
The announcement of this meeting follows a declaration by the leaders of France, Germany, the UK and the US, promising that “Iran’s (r) return to JCPOA compliance will lead to a lifting of sanctions with lasting implications for Iran’s economic growth ”. Biden understands what the Iranians want and is determined to make it happen. But the administration cannot guarantee that the sanctions relief will be lasting without involving Republicans and reaching a deal that would garner the 67 votes needed to garner support for ratification in the Senate.
The Iranians were demanding assurance that any future administration will not back out of any deal with Biden. This is probably an impossible request, especially if Tehran will only accept temporary limits on its nuclear program, weak verification measures and no restrictions on its ballistic missile program. Obama got the 2015 deal by making all of these concessions, but that’s also why Republicans almost unanimously rejected the JCPOA, while even some Democrats refused to back it.
Rather than a treaty, the JCPOA was a political agreement, without legally binding elements. The negotiators never even put their signature on the document. It was the kind of deal that presidents can make and break as they see fit, so there probably aren’t good options for the Biden administration to provide legal guarantees that future administrations will stay in the deal. .
Rather than rushing into a flawed, temporary and politically controversial deal, the administration should rethink its approach and work in a bipartisan fashion to develop the parameters of an acceptable new deal that Republicans and Democrats could envision as a binding treaty.
Otherwise, this week’s election result means that rejection of the JCPOA by a future congress and administration is not only possible, but likely, unless Biden recognizes that compromise is the only viable path forward.
Mark Dubowitz is Managing Director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), where Matthew Zweig is a senior fellow. Follow Mark on Twitter @mdubowitz. FDD is a non-partisan research institute focused on national security and foreign policy.