The Senate Speaks Up


There was welcome news from Washington on Tuesday with word of leading Republican and Democrat senators agreeing unanimously on legislation — a rarity — that would give Congress a say in the Iran nuclear agreement being negotiated by six world powers, including the U.S.

President Obama has long opposed such legislation, insisting that congressional involvement would scare off the Iranians and scotch what he hopes will be a major foreign policy achievement, preventing Tehran from having nuclear arms for at least a decade. But given the 19-0 vote by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the likelihood of a similar overwhelmingly supportive vote in the full Senate, Obama indicated he would sign the bill. It would tie the lifting of U.S. sanctions against Iran with Iran’s compliance in dismantling elements of its nuclear infrastructure. Administration spokesmen attributed the shift in the president’s position to the fact that changes were made to the bill, shortening the review period for a final deal, whose deadline is June 30, and moderating language that would maintain sanctions if Iran continues to support terrorism.

Many observers said the president acquiesced so as to avoid the embarrassment of having his veto overridden.

In any case it was heartening to see Democrats joining Republicans in insisting on a congressional role in dealing with such a vital foreign policy issue. But the news from Russia that President Putin plans to sell Iran sophisticated missile defenses was sobering on several counts. It indicated that Russia, while a member P5 + 1 coalition putting economic pressure on Iran, was undercutting the group’s position and willing to do business with the Kremlin. And military experts said the S-300 anti-aircraft missile would protect Iran against possible air strikes from Israel or the U.S. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu asserted that the Russian effort “will only encourage Iranian aggression in the region and further undermine the stability of the Middle East.”

All the more reason why it is important for Congress to be part of the process in determining the fate of any deal with Iran.