‘Very hard sell’: Any deal with Iran may face US Congress disapproval

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (R) listens to questions from journalists as he stands next to Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Abbas Araghchi (L) and Hossein Fereydoon (2nd L), brother and close aide to President Hassan Rouhani, on the balcony of Palais Coburg, the venue for nuclear talks in Vienna, Austria, July 10, 2015. (Reuters / Leonhard Foeger)
Barack Obama is likely to run into significant difficulties in winning congressional approval for the potential nuclear deal with Iran, with both republican and democrat members having aired skepticism.

With the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program in Vienna nearing their crucial point, US Congress could become a stumbling block for the success of the future deal as congressional leaders voiced doubts about the prospect of Congress approving any potential agreement.

Even if Obama manages to make a deal with Iran, it has to be reviewed and approved by Congress. In case of disapproval the president could veto Congress’s decision.

READ MORE: Iran, world powers edge towards nuclear deal, but major issues remain

However, Congress, in its turn, might try to reverse it, threatening to strip Obama of his ability to lift any sanctions on Iran which provide successful veto reversal.

With many Congress members opposing the idea of striking a deal under current circumstances, some lawmakers expressed doubts whether Obama would even be able to win the congressional approval for the deal with Iran.

“I think it's going to be a very hard sell, if it's completed, in Congress,” Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader and one of its top Republicans told Fox News Sunday adding that the senators “already know it's going to leave Iran as a threshold nuclear state.”

“At the end of the day I think people understand that if this is a bad deal that is going to allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon, they would own this deal if they voted for it, and so they’ll want to disapprove it,” the Tennessee Republican told NBC.

He emphasized that the Republican-led Congress should be able to get the 60 votes required to disapprove the bill, while Obama would need the support of 34 senators in order to veto this decision.

“Democrats will likely have the same concerns,” he added. “I hope Democrats look at this objectively and say, ‘This is not good,’ ” he said, although, he admitted that, if the deal would imply only partial lift of the sanctions, it would “likely be approved and passed.”

Speaking to ABC news on Sunday, a senior senate democrat who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, said that the anticipation of a potential deal with Iran makes him anxious.

‘I'm going to judge it when I have all of the elements of it,” he said. “I'll judge the agreement based upon what it is.”

“And the problem here is that we have gone from preventing Iran having a nuclear ability, to managing it. And what we are doing is basically rolling back sanctions for verification,” the Senator said adding that he does not rule out voting in favor of the deal.

Senator Lindsay Graham meanwhile told CNN that a new deal with Iran should be sealed by the new president in two years’ time.

At the same time House Speaker John Boehner said that it is better for now to let the interim deal reached between P5+1 in Lausanne, Switzerland in April take place.

“I think a good outcome is to basically leave the interim deal in place” with Iran until then, Graham said. “If, in fact, there’s no agreement, the sanctions are going to go back in place,” he said.

Away from the US domestic political scene, the P5+1 negotiators plan to seal the deal on Monday.

“Technical negotiations were de-facto completed,” Iran's nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi told the Iranian media.

“We still have got work to do tomorrow [Monday],” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters.

The last task ahead of the announcement was to re-read the final 100-page agreement, the Iranian diplomat told AFP.