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G5+1 talks on track to succeed Obama PC key to prevent Congressional derailment via sanctions

Einhorn 11-14
Robert, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative at the Brookings Institute, former assist. Secretary for nonproliferation under Clinton and the Secretary of States special advisor for nonproliferation and arms control under Obama, Despite The Hiccup In Geneva, Iran Nuclear Talks Still On Track November 14th, http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/iran-at-saban/posts/2013/11/14-einhorn-iran-nuclear-talks-on-track So, despite the drama, the talks did not reach a conclusion for understandable reasons. French officials raised legitimate issues, although they could be faulted for doing so publicly. Its partners considered the French ideas and endorsed most of them. And the Iranians decided to take more time to consider some elements they had not previously seen. Hardly a crisis in the negotiations. Indeed, according to Kerry, the parties are very close to agreement on an initial step that would effectively halt advances in Irans nuclear program for six months, during which time negotiations would proceed on the details of a final agreement. In exchange for constraining its program in an initial step, Iran would receive modest relief from sanctions that would leave the structure of the current sanctions regime intact and allow the P5+1 countries to retain plenty of leverage to get Iran to accept a final deal that meets their requirements. Some finger-pointing followed the conclusion of the Geneva round. To show solidarity with France and counter concerns about disharmony in the group, Secretary Kerry stated publicly that the P5+1 had a unified proposal that Iran was unable to accept, omitting that the proposal had been modified from the version Iran had already seen. Foreign Minister Zarif, the fastest and most skillful Tweeter east of the Euphrates, shot back that Kerrys "spin" could not conceal the fact that it was the P5+1 , and especially France, that had modified the text and undermined prospects for early conclusion of the deal. Still, as blame games go, this one was rather mild and short-lived. Soon, statements were made by all sides that much progress had been achieved and that an agreement could hopefully be reached at the next round. Dealing With Congress So, despite the late-inning hiccup, the talks remain on track. The main question mark now is what happens away from the negotiating table in the halls of Congress, in the U.S.-Israeli relationship, and in Tehran. Vice President Biden, Secretary Kerry, and other administration officials have an uphill fight to convince the Congress to hold off on additional sanctions to give diplomacy some additional time to work. Key members are sincere at least most of them in believing that more sanctions will help produce a sound agreement rather than scuttle prospects for one. But what if the administration is right and they are wrong? What if new sanctions make it politically impossible for Iran to accept the kind of deal we need? What if new sanctions make Iran look like the reasonable party and us the intransigent one and this results in the erosion of international support for sanctions? What if the scuttling of the diplomatic option leaves us with only very unpalatable options for heading off an Iranian nuclear capability? We dont know how great the risks are that new sanctions will undermine negotiations. But there is clearly a risk. Members of Congress need to look down the road and consider what choices will have to be faced if their actions inadvertently undercut the best opportunity weve had in years for resolving the Iran nuclear issue peacefully. Some members, wanting to be constructive, suggest that, instead of imposing new sanctions immediately, Congress should enact a law that provides for tough new sanctions but delays their imposition for several months to see if diplomacy succeeds. According to supporters, this approach would provide the necessary leverage without lowering the boom unless it becomes necessary. While this approach is neat in theory, Tehran is unlikely to grasp the nuance. Iranian opponents of a deal, and there are many, will argue that this would amount to negotiating with a gun to their heads, and they could succeed in reining in Iran's negotiators and sabotaging any likelihood of a deal. Members of Congress should keep in mind that existing sanctions are having a devastating impact on Irans economy and providing plenty of incentives for Iran to reach agreement on terms acceptable to us. Still harsher sanctions will not add decisively to that leverage, but they run the risk of undermining the talks and increasing the difficulty of sustaining broad international support for sanctions.