As soon as the Obama administration reaches an anticipated deal with Iran over its nuclear program, it will face a new challenge that threatens to strangle the accord in its crib: the inevitable attempts on Capitol Hill to impose new economic sanctions on Tehran.
Expectations are high in Washington that John Kerry, the secretary of state, will announce a limited, short-term deal with Iran, following his unexpected arrival in Geneva on Friday to participate in negotiations.
Yet the White House was quick to say that it is resolved to "protecting the broader architecture of the sanctions program," as deputy press secretary Josh Earnest put it on Friday.
But Mark Dubowitz, an Iran sanctions expert at the hawkish Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, said the administration was setting itself up for a multi-front fight, especially for a follow-on agreement: against Iran at the negotiating table; with Congress over the contours of the deal; and with Israel and Saudi Arabia, who are terrified at the prospect of US-Iranian rapprochement.
"What people are forgetting is that there's not going to be a final agreement with Iran unless Congress is treated as an equal partner in this. Congress can block the final-deal terms, because the Iranians want fundamental sanctions relief, and the fundamental sanctions relief that they want is sitting in congressional legislation," Dubowitz said.
"I think the administration has set itself up for a very, very difficult six months," Dubowitz said.