A bipartisan group of legislators in Congress are growing increasingly nervous with the administration and its so-called deal to prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb. A bill sponsored by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) that would allow Congress to reject the terms of the agreement, restore the legislature’s ability to impose and lift sanctions on the Islamic Republic, and compel the White House to certify that Iran is not involved in terrorist activities against the United States and its interests is gaining support. There’s just one problem: The White House has pledged to veto it.
Liberal Democrats, too, object to this bill. “Senator Corker’s legislation undermines these international negotiations and represents an unnecessary hurdle to achieving a strong, final agreement,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) called the effort restore some congressional authority in the race to ink a deal with Iran a “reckless rush to judgment.”
But the White House knows that some form of this bill will likely pass both chambers, and it will come close to being able to sustain a veto challenge even if it isn’t amended. So the administration is looking for a way to forge a Corker bill that they can live with, and one sticking point that appears to be headed for the trash heap is the contention that the administration must prove Iran is not presently engaged in acts of war against the United States.
“The proposed modifications stemmed from administration officials who have been contacting senators in both parties to explain their opposition to the legislation, which was written by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and would give Congress an avenue to reject the nuclear framework after reviewing the agreement,” Politico reported.
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, has filed an amendment removing the terrorism certification language and has spoken to Corker about incorporating it. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) filed an amendment that would give the president the power to lift congressional sanctions during the review period if that’s what the final deal requires, and another similar to Coons’s measure that would also allow Congress the ability to increase sanctions on Iran if it supports terrorist activities.
Corker said he is planning to have an open amendment process when his panel convenes to vote on his legislation. The measure was developed with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and is sponsored by a growing bipartisan group of senators that wants Congress to have the ability to reject the lifting of Iranian sanctions, a linchpin of the deal. Both Corker and Kaine argue that their bill is written to move in tandem with ongoing negotiations on the final technical agreement, not blow them up.
If Coons and Murphy have their way, the White House will not be forced to certify to the Congress that Iran has no links to anti-American terrorism. Though that might prove a great relief to the White House, which is planning to lift virtually all sanctions on Iran over the next year, it will be cold comfort to the American public.
One of the reasons the White House objects to having to certify that Iran is not involved in attacks on America and its allies is because it cannot. “Iran is a major sponsor of terrorism, striking Israel, U.S. Arab allies, and at times Americans,” a 2013 Brookings Institution report began. After linking a deadly 2013 bombing in Lebanon to Iranian-backed agents, the report went on to identify Iran’s historical links to terror:
Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran has backed an array of terrorist groups. These groups have fostered unrest in Iraq and the oil-rich Gulf Kingdoms, killed Iran’s enemies in Europe, and struck at enemies like Israel and the United States. Most infamously for Americans, Iran has backed the Lebanese Hizballah, providing it with hundreds of millions of dollars, sophisticated arms, and advanced training. Among its many operations, Hizballah in 1983 bombed the U.S. embassy and the Marine barracks hosting U.S. peacekeepers in Beirut, killing 17 embassy officials and 241 Marines. Iran has also backed Hizballah in its numerous operations against Israel, including a 2012 bus bombing in Bulgaria that killed five Israeli tourists and the bus driver, and has given money and weapons to Hamas, which has used these to attack Israel in repeated clashes. Tehran has also quietly maintained links to Al Qaeda itself, hosting several important figures though also restricting their activities.
For Iran, ties to terrorists served multiple purposes. Ideologically, Tehran often believed that the terrorists’ goals – to spread an Iranian-style Islamic state, to overthrow an apostate regime, to battle Israel, and so on – were the right ones, and thus it was supporting the “good guys.” But strategic considerations also proved vital. Ties to terrorist groups enabled Iran to extend its influence around the world, something its weak military and struggle economy could not accomplish. With ties to groups like Hamas, Iran was also able to establish itself as an important actor against Israel – always a popular cause in the Middle East – and, in so doing, live up to its self-image of being an Islamic revolutionary power, not a champion of the Shi’a community, which is a minority in most Arab countries.
Just last week, the families of three U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq in 2007 filed a lawsuit against the Islamic Republic over the claim that Tehran orchestrated that deadly attack against those soldiers. “The attack 50 miles south of Baghdad was one of the boldest and most sophisticated during eight years of warfare in Iraq,” Fox News reported. “Gunmen posed as a U.S. security team to get past the headquarters checkpoint manned by Iraqi police. They traveled in black SUVs, had American-style weapons, wore U.S. military combat fatigues, and spoke English.”
Once past the checkpoint, several of the gunmen got out of the SUVs and spoke with Falter and Chism, who were on guard, and then headed into the headquarters. They shot the two soldiers as they passed by. Both were taken wounded but alive, the lawsuit said. They resisted capture as best they could despite their injuries.
Fritz and another Army officer were captured in one of the compound’s offices after the gunmen fired their weapons and threw a grenade. The family of the other officer is not part of the lawsuit.
The attackers fled with their captives and headed east toward the Iranian border, according to the complaint. They were handcuffed in pairs and shot.
These were no lone wolves. This was just one incident out of hundreds in which American servicemen and women fighting in Iraq found themselves on the wrong end of Iranian munitions.
But the president wants to forge ahead with a deal with Iran at any cost and regardless of the regional and domestic turmoil it creates so as to establish a legacy of any kind in his second term in office. Democrats are, as ever, obliging him in that pursuit.