INTRO: A major confrontation is shaping up between the White House and the new Republican controlled Congress over the international negotiations to curb Iran’s nuclear program.. Commentator and longtime ABC News diplomatic correspondent Barrie Dunsmore offers his assessment. 

TEXT: The next deadline in the negotiations between the six major world powers and Iran will be reached in March. By then a frame-work agreement is due which would preclude Iran developing a nuclear weapon - in exchange for the lifting of the crippling sanctions that were imposed by the international community. A detailed agreement is due June 30th. In the meantime an interim deal is in place, which freezes Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for limited easing of sanctions.

There is a still no more than a fifty-fifty chance of reaching a final agreement. But it’s widely believed failure to reach one will lead to Iran proceeding to build its own nuclear bombs. And this in turn will trigger threats by the US and Israel, to use military means to prevent that from happening. In other words –another major Middle East war is likely, if diplomacy fails.

There are strong forces in Iran, including the powerful Revolutionary Guards Corps, which oppose any nuclear deal.

And in this country, opponents to an agreement with Iran – most Republicans and a few Democrats - have been openly taking their lead from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He sees Iran with any nuclear capability as an existential threat to Israel.

Having won both the Senate and the House in last November’s elections, the Republican Party is again asserting itself on national security. Working with a few disgruntled Democrats, Republicans are writing a new Senate resolution that threatens the imposition of more American sanctions on Iran, if the negotiations fail to satisfy Congress.

In his State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama threatened to veto any such bill, on the grounds it would torpedo the on- going negotiations at this crucial time.

The Republicans upped the ante yesterday with Republican Speaker John Boehner’s announcement that the House had invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of Congress next month about Islamic extremists and Iran.

The White House called this a breach of protocol - normally heads of government are invited to this country by the president. But protocol is hardly the issue. This is raw power politics. Given that Mr. Netanyahu’s views are widely known, presenting him with this platform to challenge the president’s policies on such a critical issue is virtually unprecedented

However, another surprise element in this political power struggle also came to light late yesterday. It seems that Mossad- Israel’s top security agency- has told members of Congress and the Obama administration- that the Senate bill under consideration to impose new sanctions on Iran, would indeed cause the current negotiations with Iran.to collapse. Stay Tuned.




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