Iran Nuke Pact Faces Battle in CongressS

This weekend's nuclear deal with Iran—the result of combined negotiating efforts between diplomats from Iran, the United States, the UK, Russia, China, France and Germany—is facing strict criticism, both in the U.S. Congress, where it has become a rare source of bipartisan agreement, and in Israel.

"The disproportionality of this agreement makes it more likely that Democrats and Republicans will join together and pass additional sanctions when we return in December," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.), according to the Wall Street Journal. Schumer's Democratic colleague, Robert Menendez, the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the "agreement did not proportionately reduce Iran's nuclear program," and added that Iran has a "history of duplicity."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who campaigned against such negotiations, was even more blunt. “What was achieved last night in Geneva is not a historic agreement, but a historic mistake,” Netanyahu said on Sunday. “Today the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world.”

Perhaps one reason for the opposition in Congress is the fact the negotiations between the U.S. and Iran started in secret more than two years ago, and Congress (and Israel) was kept in the dark. The Associated Press has a fascinating account of how the negotiations began and how they were kept secret.

Mid-level U.S. officials reportedly began meeting with Iranian diplomats in 2011 in Muscat, Oman, starting with low-expectation talks, mostly to set up discussions between higher-powered officials on both sides. Progress was made, and in March 2013, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Jake Sullivan, Vice President Joe Biden's top foreign policy adviser, flew to Oman. The AP reports that the US diplomats have met with Iranian officials five times since the March meeting, with the most recent gathering ending in Sunday's deal with Iran.

“No matter what you think of it, this is a historic deal,” Vali R. Nasr, the dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, told the New York Times. “It is a major seismic shift in the region. It rearranges the entire chess board.”

[Image via AP]