by Eli Clifton
United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) president Gary Samore made a surprising admission on Monday when he said that Congress was unlikely to override a presidential veto of any new sanctions-related legislation in the wake of a nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1.
Speaking on a panel at Columbia University, Samore evaded a question posed by me (viewable here and here) about the discrepancies between his generally more-moderate positions on Iran and the hawkish stances taken by UANI itself, a Sheldon Adelson-funded group which has gone so far as to oppose legal, humanitarian trade with Iran.
Samore’s remarks came on the eve of an anticipated announcement in Switzerland of a framework agreement reached between Iran and the P5+1 after several days of intense negotiations. That agreement, which is supposed to be followed by a comprehensive accord before July 1, will almost certainly be the subject of pending legislation—the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 co-sponsored by Sens. Bob Corker and Robert Menendez—that could limit Obama’s authority to implement the agreement or reject it outright. Corker has scheduled a mark-up of his bill by the Foreign Relations Committee for April 14, setting the stage for the legislation to go the Senate floor at any time in the weeks that follow. Obama, meanwhile, has repeatedly vowed to veto the Corker-Menendez bill or any other sanctions-related legislation that comes to his desk once a deal has been reached.
Given the hardline positions taken by UANI, one might have expected Samore, who served as the White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction from 2009 to 2013, to speak out strongly in favor of overriding any presidential veto.
But Samore instead essentially made the administration’s case against an override, suggesting that far too much was at stake for Congress to sabotage an agreement made by “all the major powers.”
If an agreement emerges, there may be a majority in both houses that are willing to vote against it. But I don’t think there’s a two-thirds majority because at the end of the day Congress isn’t going to want to take responsibility for blowing up an agreement that’s supported by all the major powers in the world and puts us in a position where for us to try to, you know, restore the sanctions regime where we’re the ones who have rejected an agreement? That’s very, very difficult.