Mark Dubowitz, the sanctions guru at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, writes:
Lest we forget, Iran is at the negotiation table because Congress passed tough economic sanctions that hammered its economy, and many of them over the Obama administration's objections. But Congress' work is not done. It must ensure that Iran does not retain the essential elements of its nuclear infrastructure to develop a nuclear weapon and continue gaming the international community.
That is a reminder that the fight over sanctions is just as much a constitutional fight over Congress's power as the fight over the president's executive order on immigration is. The central issue in both cases is whether the president must follow the laws of the land.
There are three main components in the works: the Menendez-Kirk bill to reactivate sanctions if no deal is reached; the Corker-Graham bill to demand an up-or-down vote from Congress; and a restatement of the minimally acceptable terms for a deal. These components are not mutually exclusive, however, and it would be a mistake to move forward without all three elements, namely the hammer (of sanctions), the shield (protection of congressional prerogatives) and the road map (the minimum terms).
Without the essential terms, the administration may finagle an awful deal, putting Congress and Israel in the tricky position of bucking a "peace in our time deal." By defining in advance – actually reiterating the administration's own terms — Congress can try to jerk back concessions made already and prevent further concessions. As Dubowitz says: "Obama administration officials are on record committing to a deal that will 'dismantle' 'a lot' or substantial portions of Iran's nuclear infrastructure. But Congress is concerned that the goalposts appear to be moving, with the Obama administration [signaling] flexibility on a range of issues that will make it more likely that Iran will be left with the infrastructure it needs to build a bomb." A constant stream of leaks suggests that the administration may be willing to leave thousands of centrifuges in Iran's possession with only the promise of inspections to prevent their reactivation. The Iranians and the president need to be told that this will never fly and that such a deal will not result in permanent sanctions relief.