By Col. Lawrence Wilkerson and Kate Gould. Originally published in USA Today.
Congress, support the agreement and make the world a safer place.
The Iran deal reached in Vienna is a historic victory. Exquisite diplomacy has delivered Washington andTehran from years of teetering on the brink of war to one of the greatest diplomatic achievements of the nuclear age. This deal seals off Tehran’s potential pathways to a nuclear weapon and subjects Iran to a robust transparency and inspection regime.
Now, every member of Congress will have the opportunity to stand on the right side of history and support this deal. This September, both chambers of Congress are expected to vote on whether this agreement will go forward. Lawmakers have the responsibility to ensure that this landmark diplomatic achievement is protected from the hardliners in the U.S., Iran and elsewhere who are working to sabotage this agreement before the ink has dried.
This vote may be the single biggest vote on war and peace of the decade. As forty national peace and security and faith-based organizations supporting the deal have warned lawmakers, “this will be among the most consequential national security votes taken by Congress since the decision to authorize the invasion of Iraq.”
The reason this vote is happening at all is because policymakers set up an extra-constitutional process in which Congress would vote on this agreement through passage of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (INARA). INARA lays out a process in which both the House and the Senate would vote on a ‘resolution of disapproval.’ If the resolution of disapproval were to be signed into law, the President would be barred from suspending statutory sanctions, as required under the deal.
Such an outcome would only invite disaster. If the U.S. doesn’t make good on its end of the bargain, there is little reason to believe Iran would make good on its nuclear concessions. Even our allies would question the purpose of negotiating with Washington when Capitol Hill sabotages a multilateral agreement of this significance. For the U.S. to renege on its obligations would risk an unconstrained Iranian nuclear program and an escalating cycle of hostilities that would put our countries back on a path to confrontation or possibly even war.
That is why President Obama is expected to veto such a dangerous measure, should Congress dare to take us to the edge of this diplomatic cliff. To override the President’s veto would take a whopping two-thirds of lawmakers in each chamber voting to reject diplomacy, and risk a path of confrontation and possibly war.
However, our elected officials can take the high road and vote for the national interest of America. In fact, we don’t have to risk going to the brink at all if 41 senators block a resolution of disapproval from getting a vote. If 41 senators simply vote against what’s known as “cloture,” which would allow this legislation to go forward, then the American people will have won.
And even if a majority of the House of Representatives vote to disapprove this deal going forward, without the Senate’s vote going forward, this reckless disapproval legislation won’t make it to the president’s desk.
While opponents of diplomacy are always thinking of new shenanigans to sabotage a deal, they know that the vote on the deal will define the Iran debate for years to come. That’s why opponents of a deal are pouring millions into attack ads going after key senators in advance of this landmark vote.
If the Senate fails the nation in this initial cloture vote, then the threat of both houses of Congress voting to reject the deal looms large. In that scenario, the fate of this watershed agreement will be determined by whether 34 senators and 146 representatives take a stand for diplomacy and the real interests of the nation,preventing an override of the President’s veto.
A clear majority of Americans want members of Congress to choose diplomacy. We suspect strongly that a supermajority — over 75% — would support the deal if they knew the truth and had not been led astray by billions of dollars spent in creating subterfuge, half-truths and outright lies. The overwhelming consensus among national security and non-proliferation experts is that this deal makes the U.S. and the world a safer place. Voting for the deal means not only ensuring one of the greatest diplomatic achievements of our time, but finally beginning to cease the endless cycle of U.S. military misadventures in Southwest Asia.
Col. Lawrence Wilkerson previously served as chief of staff to U.S. Secretary of StateColin Powell and is currently distinguished adjunct professor of government and public policy at the College of William and Mary. Kate Gould is the legislative associate for Middle East policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation.