In Vienna, where the United States and our P5+1 allies are negotiating the pending nuclear agreement with Iran, lots of pushing and shoving is taking place. Deadlines have been pushed back repeatedly. Red lines appear to have been overrun and the Obama administration has allowed Iran to shove its way between America and our traditional allies.
At the start of the talks, the administration laid out U.S. positions on several key issues. Nearly all of these have eroded significantly, according to reports. If a deal meeting our true objectives cannot be achieved, then America should walk away. Making a deal at any cost would jeopardize our national security, endanger our allies and deal a significant blow to our interests and the cause of human dignity in the Middle East and across the world.
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei has said much in recent days, none of it encouraging. His public statements indicate an unwillingness to accept an agreement that would prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear-weapons capability, and directly undercut commitments his negotiators have already made.
In April, President Obama told the American people that an agreement would be built upon a foundation of “unprecedented inspections,” and that sanctions relief would be “phased as Iran takes steps to adhere to the deal.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
In a speech broadcast on state television just two days before negotiations resumed in Vienna, Khamenei laid out very different positions. He repeated his refusal to allow inspections of Iranian military sites or the interviews of scientists, and he demanded that most sanctions be lifted up front, before Iran dismantles its nuclear program or international inspectors verify that Iran is complying with agreements.
Likewise, Khamenei also ruled out freezing some of the most sensitive nuclear-enrichment activities, signaling an unwillingness to comply with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), to which Iran agreed in Lausanne, Switzerland in April.
Rather than walk away, the administration seems prepared to cede ground to Iranian intransigence. Secretary of State John Kerry even indicated that Iran might not have to disclose its past atomic research. The International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, has said this information is critical to detecting and understanding future violations. America’s red lines on centrifuges, the Iranian military facility at Fordo and Iran’s nuclear stockpiles, have been shoved aside as well.
The AP reports that the administration is now seeking to repeal both nuclear and non-nuclear sanctions. All this as Iran continues supporting Bashar Assad, sponsoring global terrorism, committing egregious human-rights abuses against its own people and developing ballistic missiles — and that's not all. As the requirements for a deal have crumbled, Iran has pushed dangerously toward regional hegemony. Through its terrorist proxies, Tehran now controls Arab capitals in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Iraq.
The recently released State Department report on state sponsors of terrorism found that, “Iran continued its terrorist-related activity in 2014, including support for Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, Lebanese Hezbollah and various groups in Iraq and throughout the Middle East.”
Still, the administration appears to be cozying up to Tehran, even sharing a base with Iranian-controlled Shiite militias in Iraq. These very Iran-backed militias have been responsible for murdering scores of American soldiers during the Iraq War, and they serially commit serious human-rights abuses and atrocities against Sunni populations.
Last week, the Iranian parliament was chanting “Death to America” as it passed legislation to prohibit thorough nuclear inspections. Perhaps in seeing this striking contrast, the administration will grasp that a bad deal that would leave us worse off in 10 years is worse than no deal at all.
In May, Congress asserted its constitutional right to review any final agreement with Iran. If an agreement is reached, the president must submit it to the House and Senate, which will have up to 60 days to examine it before voting on whether or not it should be blocked.
If the administration can, against all indications, achieve an agreement that makes the United States and our allies demonstrably safer for decades, then Congress should support it.
If, however, the administration proposes an agreement that rewards Iran for decades of bad behavior, and fails to meet the needed standards, Congress must push back forcefully to protect our national security and global interests, and those of our allies.
Joshua S. Block is president and CEO of The Israel Project.