Robert Satloff claims that a congressional “no” vote on the Iran deal could lead to a better deal. According to Satloff, if Congress disapproves the deal, Iran is likely to fulfill its core requirements anyway rather than “chuck those achievements in a state of pique.” In other words, Satloff thinks Iran will behave rationally. But if Iran will behave rationally, why block the deal in the first place? A rational Iran is more likely to respond favorably to the current deal’s carrots and sticks than gamble on compliance with a deal that the United States backed out of.
In Satloff’s view, if Congress votes no and the United States keeps its sanctions in place, “European business leaders are ultimately unlikely to value the Iranian market more than the U.S. market, and much of the existing sanctions regime would stay in place,” thus allowing us the time to negotiate an even better deal. A better deal! Why didn’t President Obama think of that?
But former White House national security advisor Sandy Berger argues that if Congress blocks this deal
the existing sanctions regime will quickly erode, if not unravel, and it is hard to imagine any other country joining us in new sanctions. We need to remember that the United States has no “skin in the game” on sanctions; we haven’t traded with Iran in decades. The cost of sanctions is borne — in addition to the Iranians — by countries and companies around the world who have given up the Iranian market. In addition to the Europeans, we’ve convinced those with less of a stake in the Iranian nuclear program — the South Koreans, the Indians, the Japanese, the Chinese — to stop buying Iranian oil and selling goods into the Iranian market. They have never been happy with this but acceded to U.S. pressure and diplomacy in order to give us leverage to get Iran to the table and constrain its nuclear program.
Will the South Koreans continue to block Samsung, or the Japanese, Toyota, after the Iranians not only came to the table but negotiated a nuclear agreement that the entire world — from China and Russia to Europe and the United States president — believes is a good one and only the United States Congress does not? By the same token, how sustainable would be U.S. unilateral sanctions that punish foreign companies for trading with Iran? We would be proceeding against companies for violating U.S. sanctions that most of the world would not think were justified.
Those who oppose the deal hoping that Satloff is right are rolling the dice on the security of the United States and Israel. We don’t need a crystal ball to see that unraveling of sanctions and the refusal of Iran and our allies to engage in further negotiations is a real possibility. It’s amazing that those who oppose the deal because of particular uncertainties are willing to leap into the unknown and risk Iran getting a nuclear weapon based on unrealistic wishes for rosy scenarios that might never materialize if Congress blocks the deal.
Satloff doesn’t describe the terms of his “better deal,” nor does he explain the Plan B if Berger turns out to be right and the sanctions regime unravels after Congress blocks the deal.
And even if we could get a better deal, how much “better” would the deal have to be for opponents to change their minds? If Satloff has in mind only minor improvements, why take the risk of voting down the deal? And if Satloff has in mind major changes, then the likelihood of Iran and our allies agreeing is virtually nil.
Iran already knows that we and our allies think that the deal on the table provides sufficient protections. On what basis can we go back and say 24 days is too many or we now want anywhere, anytime inspections anywhere in the country? Iranians can read. They know that we and our allies have explained to the deal’s critics how the current deal achieves its goals. To paraphrase Laura Rozen, if you enter into contract to buy a house and then back out, what is the seller going to do if you then come back and make a lower offer? Laugh?
I get the impression from reading the statements of those opposed to a deal that they don’t want any deal, whether they admit it to themselves or not. No deal that can be achieved in the real world will be good enough for them, which might be why they are so unwilling or unable to spell out exactly what they expect in a re-negotiated deal or why, to the extent they are specific, they insist that Iran agree to conditions that both we and our allies believe are unreasonable and unnecessary and that Iran will never agree to.
We owe it to the United States, Israel, and the world to support this deal and to do all we can to make it work.