Political slugfest on suggestion the White House may take an Iran deal to the UN

This following is a translation of Joseph Braude’s latest weekly column in Arabic, Letter from New York (Risalat New York), in the Moroccan daily Al-Ahdath al-Maghrebiya.

Reports emerged in the American media Thursday that President Obama may propose a resolution to the UN Security Council calling for the lifting of international sanctions on Iran, if an agreement is reached by the “P5+1” negotiating team over the country’s nuclear program. The possibility angered members of the Republican Congress, who have been fiercely critical of the emerging Iranian deal, citing concerns that it will enable Iran to gradually achieve its nuclear aspirations, as well as free its hand to further empower its Shi’ite Islamist Arab proxies.

Michael Doran, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, told Al-Ahdath al-Maghrebiya, “There is a strong possibility that the President will take this to the Security Council because that is an Iranian demand. The reason the Iranians want him to go to the UN is they want sanctions relief, and a UN resolution will give the Europeans the international legal cover they need to lift sanctions. At the same time, Obama will argue to his domestic critics that the UN strategy is a mechanism to hold the Iranians’ feet to the fire.”

The “United Nations option” also offers a solution to the political problem Obama would face in engineering consent for a nuclear deal domestically. In testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this week, Secretary of State John Kerry met stiff opposition to the details of the proposed deal that have emerged publicly so far. “The Administration wants to do an end-run around Congress — yet they want the enforcement mechanism to be significant,” Doran said. “If the Administration goes to the UN, they could argue that the deal contains a significant international legal component, even though they did not go to the Senate. So, it allows them to have it both ways.”

For his part, Republican Senator Ted Cruz, one of the Administration’s most strident critics on matters foreign and domestic, told journalists, “The United Nations has no authority whatsoever to bind the United States of America. If President Obama attempts to end-run the Constitution by enlisting the United Nations to enforce an Iran deal, that sets the stage for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. It would be both profoundly dangerous to the national security of the United States and our allies, and also patently unconstitutional.”

In response, U.S. National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said the Administration has “no intention … [of] converting U.S. political commitments under a deal with Iran into loyally binding obligations through a UN Security Council resolution.”

This fierce pushback on the White House comes only two days after an angry response by both the Obama Administration and the Iranian government to an open letter, signed by 47 Republican members of Congress, warning Tehran that any nuclear deal with the White House may be cancelled by whomever succeeds Obama as President.

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