The Iran Nuclear Deal: Approvals
Exploring the background of the Iran nuclear deal, this article is fourth in a series of six.
The question of whether or not Congress would kill the Iranian nuclear deal was answered on Sept. 17, 2015. In the Senate with a 58-42 vote, Democrats filibustered the disapproval resolution that Republicans and a few Democrats had tried to send to the president's desk, where it would have been vetoed. The vote came just under the wire as the 60-day congressional review period regarding the Iran deal was scheduled to end. Democrats banded together to block the disapproval measure one last time. But with more than enough Democrats to sustain that veto, the fight turned largely to the details of Senate procedure and the suspense of whether Democrats would halt the bill from reaching the White House altogether. Just four Democrats voted with Republicans: Senator Chuck Schumer (NY), Joe Manchin (WV), Robert Menendez (NJ), and Ben Cardin (MD). It is interesting to note that the White House had already secured 34 Democratic votes in the Senate in the week before. Those pledges of support meant that the President had enough support to sustain his veto of a disapproval bill if it had passed.
On Oct. 13, 2015, Iran's Parliament voted to support implementing the nuclear deal sending the accord to the Guardian Council, consisting of senior clerics, to review before its final approval. In the parliamentary session, carried live by state radio, 161 lawmakers on hand (out of a 290 seat parliament) voted for the deal, 59 voted against it, 13 abstained, 17 did not vote at all, and 40 lawmakers did not attend the session. The bill as passed gives oversight of the deal's implementation to the Supreme National Security Council, headed by President Hassan Rouhani. Ayatoliah Ali Khamanei had not publicly supported or disapproved of the deal, although he offered encouragement for Iran's diplomats throughout the months of negotiation over it.
On Oct. 14, the Guardian Council, one of the top leadership bodies in Iran's cleric-ruled system, gave final approval to the bill passed by the parliament to implement the deal. The 12-member council, half appointed by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khemenei and half by the country's judicial chief with parliament's approval, must sign off on all bills before they become law.
Someone had written that "most members of Iran's Parliament were left largely in the dark on the details of what must be dismantled" before existing sanctions were to be removed. To the contrary, people knowledgeable about Iran have said that members of Iran's Parliament thoroughly studied the 150 pages of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and were briefed when necessary by Iran's negotiating team about the talks between Iran and six other countries.
Moreover, plenty of comments, analyses, and articles were published in Iran's mainstream media as well as social media, and discussed in academic and public forums, resulting in heated debate among different layers of Iranian society regarding the negotiations. The Iranian public eagerly followed all deliberations and technical details relating to the deal.
Suffice it to say that in Iran, the nuclear negotiations have always been considered a national rather than partisan issue, not hostage to another country's wishes. As a result, the deal secured 161 yes votes and 59 no votes in Iran's Parliament, paving the way for its full implementation.
Hard-liners had hoped to stall the deal in order to weaken President Rouhani's moderate administration ahead of February's parliamentary elections. But many in Iran applauded the final nuclear deal as it would lift crippling economic sanctions in exchange for limits on the nuclear program.
In article five, we will discuss commencing the implementation of the JCPOA with particular comments on "Adoption Day" and collateral benefits for Iran.