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New Einhorn Report on Final Iran Deal Focuses Debate

A recent report by a Brookings scholar recommends passing a congressional authorization for war in the event that Iran abandons nuclear negotiations with the west.

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Robert Einhorn, who served as the State Department’s special advisor on non-proliferation and arms control under President Barack Obama until less than a year ago, has issued an important report, “Preventing a Nuclear-Armed Iran: Requirements for a Comprehensive Nuclear Agreement,” which no doubt reflects much of the thinking of the administration’s main negotiators. It was presented at the Brookings Institution, Einhorn’s current employer, with reactions from Dennis Ross of the Washington Institute for Near Policy (WINEP) and Frank N. von Hippel of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend but I just noticed that an audio recording of the session is available here

For the short version — the report is some 56 pages long — you should read the Introduction and Summary (pp. 4-10), but Barbara Slavin also published an article about the report on Al-Jazeera America if you want to read an even shorter account that summarizes the main points, highlighting what are likely to be the more contentious provisions. Hopefully, we will be able to offer a real expert’s analysis of the report’s recommendations on the blog by the weekend. Laura Rozen also wrote up a summary on her blog for Al-Monitor.

While, as Einhorn acknowledges, his recommendations could prove problematic to the Iranians, the fact that the ongoing negotiations appear to be proceeding smoothly clearly suggests that the basic elements that he lays out as part of an eventual agreement are not deal-breakers. Indeed, I’m pretty certain the U.S. negotiating team has already put much of this on the table, and the Iranians clearly haven’t rejected any of it.

That said, I find one recommendation particularly objectionable; specifically, one related to actions designed to “convey clearly to Iran’s leaders that any attempt to abandon constraints and pursue nuclear weapons would be met with a firm international response that would be highly damaging to Iran’s interests” in the event that a comprehensive agreement is reached.

The Congress should take legislative action to give the president prior authorization to use military force in the event of clear evidence that Iran has taken steps to abandon the agreement and move toward producing nuclear weapons.

In other words, as part of the process of sealing a comprehensive accord that would also see Congress lifting nuclear-related sanctions against Iran, Einhorn is calling for an Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) to be given to the president — any president, presumably, for the life of the accord. While this may help undermine opposition to lifting sanctions as part of a final agreement, I have serious questions about its wisdom under any circumstances. Not only would the Iranians consider this a highly aggressive gesture comparable to putting a “gun to [their] head,” but anyone — especially Democrats — who remembers the uses to which the October 2002 AUMF were eventually put by George W. Bush must surely find this a rather frightening prospect.

Imagine if Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, or Ted Cruz is sitting in the Oval Office. Besides, look what happened to the proposed AUMF on Syria. Will an AUMF really be politically necessary to get enough support to lift nuclear-related sanctions if a comprehensive agreement along Einhorn’s thinking is reached? And think of all the potential provocateurs — Israel’s right-wing leadership and its backers here, Saudi Arabia, the MEK — who would be lining up to try to blow up an agreement by, among other things, offering doctored evidence of non-compliance to a nervous or complicit White House. While most of Einhorn’s proposals recommendations appear on their face (at least to a non-technical person) to be reasonable, an AUMF just seems irresponsible.

Jim Lobe blogs about foreign policy at www.lobelog.com

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