When they struck a deal with President Obama for the opportunity to review his nuclear deal with Iran, members of the U.S. Congress were adamant that they be given enough time to review and debate the proposal before voting on it. They even demanded that the review period be bumped from 30 to 60 days if the negotiations went past the point when a 30-day period would conflict with lawmakers’ August recess.
On Tuesday, Iran’s parliament one-upped Congress, declaring that it will not vote on the deal for at least 80 days, during which time a panel of experts will review it.
The announcement was widely seen as a strategic move by the Islamic Republic, which stands to gain substantially from the deal in terms of the lifting of economic sanctions but which cannot be seen by its own people as being pushed around by Western powers, particularly the U.S.
Were opponents of the deal in the U.S. Congress able to derail it – and they have only a slim chance of doing so – Iran’s leadership might look weak if they had already approved it. Under the 80-day review standard, by contrast, they won’t have to take a position on the deal until they know what Congress has done.
That means that in the unlikely event of Congress rejecting the deal, they could claim that it was never acceptable to them in the first place. If Congress does accept the deal, Iranian lawmakers can approve it while putting the best possible spin on it – likely including rhetorical abuse of U.S. policies – without concern that their rhetoric endangers the agreement.
The announcement came just a day after the United Nations Security Council, all of whose permanent members were parties to the negotiation, approved the deal.
Barring unexpected Democratic opposition in Congress, the deal will be approved in the U.S. as well, though there’s a chance it will require a presidential veto of a congressional vote of disapproval.
On the whole, the current status of the Iran deal appears to be that it’s done except for the political posturing that will allow Iran to sell it to its people – a sales job that will involve a lot of boasting about how its negotiators got the best of the agreement while giving up the least.
In other words, it’s all over but the shouting.
And there will be shouting. Iranian chief negotiator Javad Zarif appeared before members of Congress Tuesday and assured them that, regardless of what happens with their nation’s nuclear program, the sanctions being lifted under the agreement will be exceedingly difficult to re-impose once international business interests begin reinvesting in Iran’s starved markets.
Indeed, on Monday, just days after the agreement was finalized, German diplomats were leading a delegation of business representatives to Tehran to meet with Iranian officials.
Also this week, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called the U.S. an “arrogant” nation, toward which Iran would not change its policies.
Asked about the religious leader’s comments, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who was arguably the driving force behind the deal, said, “If it is the policy, it’s very disturbing, it’s very troubling, and we’ll have to wait and see.”