In a conference call with reporters Wednesday morning, Mark Dubowitz, an Iran expert and executive director of the nonpartisan Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said that Congress has tools at its disposal to resist efforts by the Obama administration to circumvent the legislature and lift sanctions on Iran as part of a nuclear deal currently being negotiated before a November 24 deadline.
Congress could, Dubowitz said, enact a "sanctions defense architecture to ensure that the president does not precipitously unwind these sanctions, further undercutting the U.S. economic leverage, and allowing Iran to continue cheating without any consequences."
The U.S. has already retreated significantly in its negotiations with Iran, from the earlier UN Security Council ban on any nuclear enrichment by Iran, to allowing some enrichment and lifting some economic sanctions.
Overall, despite campaign promises of "tough diplomacy," President Obama has battled global perceptions of weakness--perceptions boosted this week by Russian aggression in Ukraine as leaders hobnobbed in Beijing.
Dubowitz warned that a recent deal announced between Russia and Iran, under which Russia would build new nuclear reactors for the regime, threatened international pressure on Iran's nuclear program.
"The deal is deeply worrying, in that here is a deal being announced...when Iran is in flagrant violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions, is violating the multilateral non-proliferation treaty, and is a nuclear pariah.
This week also saw a U.S-China climate deal announced in Beijing Wednesday by President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Under the deal, the U.S. will commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions drastically over the next ten years, while China will be allowed to increase emissions over the next fifteen years.
The terms are lopsided, but the Obama administration is evidently hopeful that the agreement will re-invigorate global diplomatic efforts on climate change, even if it may reinforce perceptions of diplomatic weakness.
In addition, the agreement will likely provide a foundation for the Obama administration's regulatory efforts at home, where it intends to regulate fossil fuel use by executive fiat, circumventing a Republican-held Congress.
While not commenting specifically on the new climate deal, Dubowitz spoke of the importance of a stronger U.S. posture on the world stage, both economically and diplomatically.
"There is no substitute for U.S. leadership...and the Russians and Chinese didn't like it...but Congress really pushed the administration...It is essential and important that we continue to exert leadership on this [Iranian nuclear] issue."
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