Jacob Heilbrunn comments on hard-line opposition in the Senate to a negotiated deal with Iran:
At the same time, opposition to Obama’s more concessive tack is also manifesting itself on Capitol Hill, where Senator Marco Rubio headed a group of Republican legislators–one that included Roy Blunt, Pat Roberts and Ted Cruz–who stated in a September 24 letter, “we are…troubled by reports that you might be considering offering a new proposal that would leave the door open to a nculear Iran, perhaps allowing Iran to preserve part of its nuclear weapons program.” It continues, “Given this record and the risks, Iran must not be allowed to retain any enrichment or processing capabilities.” Any? This is a prescription for war since it precludes a diplomatic approach–no Iranian government would give up in toto the right to enrichment.
The letter from Rubio, Cruz, et al. would be funny if it weren’t such a depressing and predictable sign of knee-jerk hawkishness on this issue. The authors concede that Iran has a right to nuclear energy under the NPT, but then make it clear that this doesn’t really mean anything to them. They write:
We do not believe, however, that this means that Iran should have access to the entire nuclear fuel cycle. As a country that has repeatedly and blatantly violated its international obligations in this area and because of the proliferation risk posed by even a limited enrichment program and possession of sensitive reprocessing technologies, we will not be able to support any deal with Iran, including through sanctions relief, that compromises on this issue.
As Heilbrunn points out, refusing a limited enrichment program is an obvious non-starter for Iran, and it would guarantee the collapse of negotiations if the administration were foolish enough to adopt this as their position. That was one of the unmistakable messages that Rouhani delivered in his U.N. address this week when he emphasized the need for “acceptance of and respect for the implementation of the right to enrichment inside Iran [bold mine-DL] and enjoyment of other related nuclear rights.” The Senators might have saved themselves some time and summed up their message to Obama by saying, “We won’t support any negotiated deal with Iran that you have the slightest chance of getting, so don’t even bother trying.” It is a maximalist position that no foreign government could accept, because accepting it would mean total capitulation to U.S. demands.
Even Kenneth Pollack recognizes that any deal with Iran will have to allow some limited enrichment to continue in Iran:
Given how much the Iranians have invested in this program, how much progress they have already made, how committed to it they have become, and how much pain they have endured to hang on to it, it is simply not plausible that they will agree to give it up altogether.
It may be that Rubio, Cruz, et al. are oblivious to these realities, or it may be that they are aware of them and don’t want to find a negotiated solution to this issue. Either way, the administration needs to ignore their arguments and it should be prepared to make the concessions necessary to secure an agreement.