I was sitting at a table outside, munching on a thin crust Margarita pizza this afternoon when my friend Ben walked up to get my assessment of the odds of obtaining a veto-proof majority in Congress on the Iran agreement. It was easy to see his trepidation. So I explained to him that at this point regardless if we get a veto proof majority or not, the primary goal remains the same. That goal is getting the maximum number of “no votes”. Because, if the agreement is upheld for lack of a veto-proof majority, whoever is in office in 2017 will have fewer complications enacting substitute legislation, or even tougher replacement sanctions, than if members have to be brought up to speed from ground zero.
A strong bi-partisan majority voting against the agreement right now will send a strong caution signal to the European business community. European businesses who are chomping at the bit to rev up economic ties with Iran, will consequently do so with far less vigor. Having to deal in 2017 with a new battery of US enacted replacement sanctions and to have to make the choice between dealing with a $17 trillion dollar economy or, with a 450 million dollar economy, will cause European businesses to tread gingerly, thereby minimizing potential capital investment in Iran. That would not be a terrible outcome.
Many have been distracted by the question of a zero sum “nukes or no nukes” game. It’s really not about the nukes. Because to get to nukes, without addressing the economic mess that existing sanctions have caused exposes, Iran’s leaders to internal strife and instability. The real issue is that if Iran is permitted to benefit from economic growth, then Iran becomes a stronger and more independent player and a far more difficult adversary to deal with in the future. If the agreement cannot be defeated by a veto proof majority, and the $100 billion dollars in frozen Iranian assets begin, as is stipulated to in the agreement, to flow back into Iran, then crimping the Iranian economy by choking future investment of capital through the bi-partisan enactment of replacement sanctions in 2017, becomes a priority of even greater importance.
No matter what odds Vegas is giving against our ability to obtain a veto-proof majority we must continue to relentlessly right now to pursue every possible “no vote”. We must stay focused on obtaining maximum Congressional consensus now, which in the event of a failure to gain a veto proof majority in September, will give us ability to act expeditiously in 2017 in order to re-apply our economic vice grip.