The protracted Iranian nuclear talks, after blowing through several deadlines, are starting to make U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle uneasy – as Congress prepares to weigh in with a potentially big vote. The new deadline for talks is Friday, but negotiators already are expected to blow by a separate congressional deadline Thursday – after which Congress will claim the right to take a full 60 days to review any potential agreement, dragging the entire issue into the fall.
Congress is now faced with two potential scenarios. Either the talks produce a deal, and Congress votes to accept or reject it after the review period; or the talks produce no deal, and lawmakers consider the possibility of a military strike should Iran forge ahead. If negotiators can’t come to terms with Iran, Tehran’s leaders are free to do whatever they want. If they strike a deal, then the international community has some redress if Iran strays from the terms of a pact.
Rope-a-dope is a boxing tactic employed by Muhammad Ali against George Foreman in the “Rumble in the Jungle” in 1974. Ali leaned against the ropes for eight rounds, absorbing mostly ineffective blows doled out by Foreman. Then, once Foreman punched himself out, Ali cut loose a frightening five-punch combination. Foreman floundered to the canvas. Ali had won. Is Iran Ali in these talks?
“We have to make sure we get this right. We didn’t get it right with North Korea,” said Rep. Eliot Engel D-N.Y., the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “[The Iranians] lie. They cheat.” So, right now, everyone is watching the calendar. But some don’t think the calendar is that important.
“The important thing is to get a deal,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. “If it takes a couple of weeks, so be it.” Like Shaheen, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., isn’t monitoring the deadline. He’s looking at something else. “I still believe that Secretary Kerry is so desperate for an agreement that [he] will agree to anything,” fretted McCain.