On “Face the Nation” yesterday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) took a predictable line on the framework to curtail Iran’s nuclear program, but he also endorsed “keeping the interim deal in place” – possibly until 2017 – since it’s been “fairly successful.”
Sen. Bob Corker (R-S.C.) adopted a similar line recently, saying, “[W]e do have JPOA in place, the interim deal. And it could continue for some time.”
And what’s JPOA? It’s the “Joint Plan of Action,” an interim deal reached in 2013 that set P5+1 talks in motion.
JPOA is a temporary deal that gives Iran limited sanctions relief in exchange for a number of concessions on nuclear issues. Most notably, Iran agreed to stop enriching uranium to 20 percent u-235, a kind of uranium that is not enriched enough for a nuclear warhead but that is partway there.What’s new is that Iran got an additional sweetener out of the current negotiations. As part of the sanctions regime, about $100 billion worth of Iranian assets had been frozen. While negotiations continue, Iran will get to unfreeze about $700 million of this frozen money per month. That’s not a huge deal, but it’s not nothing either, and it’s meant to convince Iran to keep talking.
What Graham and Corker have endorsed, in effect, is that this interim JPOA deal remain in place, at least for now, instead of moving forward with the broader international agreement announced last week.
We can certainly debate that on the merits, but it’s worth pausing to ask Graham and Corker a follow-up question: didn’t you guys hate JPOA in 2013?
President Obama referenced this briefly when announcing the new framework: “Over a year ago, we took the first step towards today’s framework with a deal to stop the progress of Iran’s nuclear program and roll it back in key areas. And recall that at the time, skeptics argued that Iran would cheat, and that we could not verify their compliance and the interim agreement would fail.”
In this case, the “skeptics” included Lindsey Graham and Bob Corker.
A Democratic source today shared a list of quotes from two GOP senators who were outraged in late 2013 when JPOA was first announced. Corker, in particular, called it a “total victory” for Iran, which cannot become “the norm.”
A year and a half later, the same senators seem to have changed their minds, perhaps forgetting their predictions from the time, all of which now appear to be wrong.
Why should you care? Because this speaks directly to their credibility – the senators who said the interim agreement in 2013 was the wrong course, we now know, were mistaken. Now those same senators like the 2013 deal and claim the 2015 agreement is the wrong course.
Maybe, if/when the new framework is implemented, Republicans will similarly discover this isn’t such a bad idea after all?