The Nuclear Deal
Congress, Pundits, Allies React to Iran Deal

Diplomats announced the conclusion of a nuclear deal between Iran and the United States-led P5+1 earlier today. At 159 pages, the deal is weighty and complicated, and the devil(s) will likely lie in the details—which is to say, we’ll hold comment until we know more, and we encourage you to keep an eye out in the upcoming hours and days for commentary from TAI editors and contributors. But in the meantime, we’ve already seen commentary from politicians and pundits alike—and in many ways, these reactions are what will shape the fate of the deal going forward.

Unsurprisingly, President Obama hailed the deal, whereas Speaker of the House John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and a slew of GOP Presidential candidates sounded notes of deep reservation. A Congressional fight is brewing, and the President has already vowed to veto any measure of disapproval passed under Corker-Menendez. Keep an eye therefore on hawkish Congressional Democrats, particularly these fourteen Senators, who will be heavily courted by both sides in the lead-up to an expected veto-override vote that Sen. Corker projects for early September (and, it’s worth noting, a 2/3 override vote in both houses is very tough).

Pundits and former governmental officials are also starting to weigh in, though cautiously. Many, like Jeffrey Goldberg and Dennis Ross, have pieces establishing the parameters by which they would judge the package. These are worth keeping an eye on, for they’re being echoed by centrist Senators of both parties, and some standard reference points for evaluating the deal do seem to be congealing into a consensus among the U.S. foreign policy establishment. (One shouldn’t overstate the importance of intellectual yard-sticks though: the Obama Administration will be hard at work horse-trading—you want that bridge? air base?—and that this is often how politics actually ends up working.)

Key allies in the P5+1, meanwhile, sound pleased, but with various degrees of reservation. The Brits, though the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, issued essentially platitudinous praise for the deal; Cameron’s administration has been small-c conservative in foreign policy matters and will be unlikely to object to an agreement the Obama Administration favors. The French, on the other hand, have grown closer recently to the Saudis and been more hawkish in the negotiations. Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius characterized the deal as a “stage agreement… still work to do” while President Hollande said France would be “watchful”. (Neighborhood troll Vladmir Putin declared that the world “breathed a sigh of relief.”)

Most concerning to the U.S. so far should be the Saudi position. While the government has yet to make an official statement, Saudi diplomats are already making their feelings known—and they are not happy. The Washington Post reports:

One Saudi diplomat described the agreement as “extremely dangerous” and said it would give a green light to his own government to start a nuclear energy program.[…]

“If a green light is given to Iran, Saudi Arabia has the right to nuclear energy,” said the Saudi diplomat, echoing comments by other Saudi diplomats in recent weeks.

As Walter Russsell Mead wrote in March, the P5+1 actually has three silent partners—the U.S. Congress, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. Congress’ reaction as a whole will be revealed through votes in the coming months, while both the Saudi government and the Israeli government seem to be feeling out what their other options truly are. All three are outliers, for now, from a general international consensus that it’s time to take the deal—good, bad, or ugly—and get on with things. But as more details become known, will public opinion—particularly in the U.S.—shift their way?

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