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WASHINGTON, DC — The final round of the Iran nuclear negotiations is underway, and public opinion across the United States is emphatically favorable—with the latest polling, from NBC, showing that Americans support a deal by a 2 to 1 margin.
But sooner or later, it’s Congress that will have to decide whether to approve the agreement. The stakes are high, and what the Hill needs now is an edifying discussion to ensure that its members make an informed, prudential decision.
Yet that’s not the discussion they’ve been having, at least in the House. Over the past two months, the Committee on Foreign Affairs has held almost weekly hearings discussing Iran. Of the fifteen expert witnesses they’ve heard from, twelve have been ardent opponents of any negotiations— skewing debate decisively towards the hawks.
One witness, General Michael T. Flynn, actually plagiarized entire sections of his testimony from a report issued by the Washington Institute of Near-East Policy, a think-tank offshoot of the powerful anti-deal lobby AIPAC. Flynn actually argued that regime change, like we tried with Saddam, was the only way to effectively deal with Iran’s nuclear program.
Another “expert” that has been featured was Maryam Rajavi—the “president-elect” of the Mojahedin-e-Khalq, a “cult-like” Marxist organization that, until 2012, was actually considered a terrorist-group by the United States for its attacks against Iran; hardly an objective or reliable source for analysis.
And just like that, they’ve turned the hearings into tax-payer purchased stick to beat the agreement with— creating the appearance that supporters of an agreement are a radical minority, when in reality the opposite is true. No, this doesn’t mean that lawmakers should only hear from the deal’s supporters, but democratic discourse is only fruitful when it hears from both sides. By hearing only one side of the argument, the debate has taken place in a vacuum in which any potential flaw in a deal has been magnetized, the benefits have been disregarded, and the consequences of rejecting a deal have been completely ignored.
These are consequences that few lawmakers have bothered to raise in their questioning of witnesses, with one exception. Representative Gerald Connolly (D-VA) is one of the only committee members to defend the nuclear talks during the hearings—and also happens to be one of the only lawmakers from the Democratic minority who have decided to actually attend these events and confront the heavily slanted panels.
“What is the probability,” Connolly asked at one of the hearings, “that pulling the plug and imposing more sanctions will lead to Iranians concluding that it is not beneficial to negotiate with the West?” Dissatisfied with the panel’s noncommittal response, Connolly suggested that doing so would blow up a deal, lift constraints on Iran’s nuclear program and push its rivals to respond with nuclear programs of their own. Connolly implored the panel, and his colleagues, “to examine whether your approach will lead precisely to the end result that you want to avoid, which is massive proliferation.”
Debating the deal on its actual merits, seriously addressing the viability of alternatives, digging into the most pressing issues— only when we hear more statements like Connolly’s will we have productive discussion on the Iran nuclear deal. Everything up to then will be exactly as it has been so far: nothing but sound and fury.
An Ideological Echo-Chamber in the House of Representatives
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