Vermont Public Radio comment for Thursday December 12th, 2013


VPR230 INTRO: The diplomatic effort to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue continues to face strong opposition. This morning commentator and veteran ABC News diplomatic correspondent Barrie Dunsmore  offers his analysis.


TEXT: The interim agreement between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – The United States, Russia, China, Britain and France, plus Germany – has been under attack this week in the American Congress.

That agreement commits Iran to freezing and even rolling back parts of its nuclear program; and to allowing unprecedented U.N. inspections of its nuclear facilities. In exchange Iran is to receive relief from a small portion of the sanctions that are crippling its economy. Over the next six months a comprehensive long term agreement is to be negotiated.

Israel has called this a bad agreement. Saudi Arabia and other Arabs states in the Persian Gulf are also opposed. But the vast majority of knowledgeable observers of the region consider it a significant breakthrough - not just because of the limits it places on Iran’s nuclear program for the first time , but because it could lead to an easing of the more than three decades of often violent tensions between the United States and Iran.

It is into this somewhat hopeful situation that hardline Republicans and some normally not- so- hardline Democrats have decided to assert their congressional authority. In short, they want to pass a bill setting specific conditions for any final agreement – a total ban on uranium enrichment even for peaceful purposes has been discussed. And they want to make even harsher sanctions mandatory- if after the six months of negotiations the Iranians fail to accept these conditions. This would severely limit President Barack Obama’s negotiating flexibility. And both such actions would be deal breakers. Among other things, additional sanctions are specifically prohibited during the six months of the interim agreement.

President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have been passionately arguing against such congressional moves. But in essence the congressional pushback has been -if economic sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table- why not more sanctions to make sure it complies with our demands.

I don’t know just what is motivating this significant bipartisan opposition to the Iran deal. But I do know one group quietly cheering for the American opposition’s success – namely- the hardline Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. They are strongly opposed to any agreement that would prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. In their view, if diplomacy fails and this ultimately leads to an American-Israeli bombing attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities – so be it. Such an attack would end the international coalition imposing sanctions. It would also drive out the international inspectors and so leave Iran free to rebuild its nuclear arsenal without any impediments. Iran already knows how to build nuclear weapons, and experts predict it could make them within a year of any conceivable bombing attack.

And so - if in the end, either Iranian or American hardliners succeed in scuttling the diplomatic solution - even a disastrous war would not stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Rather- it would unite the Iranian people and make them more determined than ever to do so.

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