Is Iranian self-inspection a game-changer in Congress?

Will the news that Iran has negotiated the right to self-inspect the Parchin facility, where it is believed to have experimented with high-explosive detonators for nuclear arms, cause the nuclear deal to fail in Congress? In other words, will enough Democrats reject the deal to enable the Senate and the House to override President Obama’s veto of Congress’s rejection of the deal?

The answer, I’m pretty sure, is no. Some Democrats will support the deal because they don’t want to break with their president. Others will support it because, like the president, they believe any deal is worthwhile because it will constrain “warmongers” in the U.S. and Israel from attacking Iran. Taken together, these Dems will give Obama the one-third plus one supports he ultimately needs.

Nonetheless, the self-inspection regime will not be without consequences. For one thing, it will likely subject the deal to widespread popular ridicule. Anyone can understand how ridiculous self-policing is in this context.

More importantly, and partly as a result, self-inspection increases the likelihood that a Republican president will reject the deal as it’s written — something he or she can do, since the deal won’t be a ratified treaty. Until now, I have assumed that the next president, Republican or Democrat, will grudgingly (in the case of a Republican) stick with the deal. Sanctions will have collapsed entirely and the last thing a new president will want to do is threaten war.

But now, I can imagine a Republican president demanding real inspections of the Parchin facility. As much as I dislike Donald Trump and doubt his conservatism, I can easily see him making this demand as part of his “America wins again” platform. I can see other (but probably not all) members of the Republican field similarly insisting on outside inspectors.

And if Iran refuses, I can now see the next president repudiating the deal, slapping whatever sanctions are feasible, and considering military options. Whether the next president does so may depend on Iran’s general posture during the next year and a half. So far, it looks like Iran will be belligerent enough to induce a strong president to push back hard.

It’s not certain, by the way, that Iran will refuse to alter its position on inspections if the U.S. elects a strong president who demands this. Iran did a quick about face on the American hostages as soon as Ronald Reagan took office. I don’t assume that history would repeat itself in 2017, but it might.


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