My newest at LobeLog looks at some cautiously optimistic developments in the Iran nuclear negotiations (unconfirmed reports that the Iranians have agreed to ship a substantial portion of their uranium stockpiles to Russia for conversion to fuel rods, comments from Rouhani that suggest he’s beginning to make the domestic political case in favor of a deal), but wonders if they’ve come too late in the game to preempt the new Congress from wrecking the negotiations altogether:
Unfortunately, these positive developments take place amid the rise of a new threat to the ongoing negotiations, not from hardliners in Iran’s parliament but rather from hardliners in the newly installed (as of Saturday) US Congress. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) visited Israel late last month and told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that there would be a vote on the previously stymied Kirk-Menendez bill (to impose additional sanctions on Iran) sometime in January, and that the new Congress would “follow [Netanyahu’s] lead” on dealing with Iran and the nuclear talks. Putting aside the astonishing sight of a US senator pledging allegiance to a foreign leader, sanctions are a clearly decisive issue for Tehran. The imposition of another round of broad US sanctions, even if they are made conditional on Iran abandoning the talks or breaking its obligations under the existing negotiating framework, would strengthen hardliners in Tehran who have long argued that Washington cannot be trusted. The Obama administration has pledged to veto any additional sanctions on Iran so long as talks are ongoing, but that may not matter; Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) told reporters last week that he expects the new Congress to pass a new sanctions bill with veto-proof majorities in both the House and the Senate.
Please go and read the whole thing.