Just before Congress recessed for the holidays, 26 senators — 13 Democrats and 13 Republicans, led by Senators Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) and Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) — introduced the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013. Its purpose: to ready new sanctions that would be triggered only if Iran’s rulers either fail to meet the obligations they have undertaken under a “Joint Plan of Action” or foot-drag on talks meant to lead to a “comprehensive agreement.” That agreement is to offer the theocrats a simple deal: relief from increasing economic isolation and pressure in exchange for the verifiable dismantling of their nuclear-weapons program — an illegal program condemned by six U.N. Security Council resolutions.
The bill has displeased Iran’s rulers and infuriated many on the American left. “Saboteur Sen. Launching War Push,” ran the histrionic headline above Menendez’s photo in the Huffington Post last week.
President Obama also opposes the legislation. At his final press conference of the year, he said “there’s no reason to do it now” and he accused the bill’s congressional sponsors of “trying to look tough on Iran” for political reasons. He has threatened a veto should the measure reach his desk. His veto could be overridden by a two-thirds majority in each house — a high but not insurmountable hurdle.
Members of Congress sitting on the fence might want to ponder a few questions over the holidays: Are you confident that Iran’s rulers are negotiating in good faith? Do you think American diplomats will be helped or harmed if you give them additional leverage? Does it trouble you that Iran’s rulers have yet even to acknowledge that they have a nuclear-weapons program — insisting that, despite the vast petroleum reserves they control, they are building nuclear facilities under mountains strictly for “peaceful purposes”? Are you convinced that Iranian president Hassan Rouhani and foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif are moderates? Or do you suspect that they might be trying to play American diplomats like a Guadagnini?