US Secretary of State John Kerry, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Frank-Walter Steinmeier during the talksin Vienna, Austria, Nov. 24, 2014
Roland Schlager/EPA

Iran deal enjoys broad support - except in Congress

For months, every national, independent poll showed broad U.S. support for the international nuclear talks with Iran. But as the negotiations continued, it was still in the realm of the hypothetical – Americans were effectively endorsing the pursuit of a deal, not the agreement itself.
Now that a deal is complete and the debate has entered the next phase, would public support fade? Evidently, no – at least not yet.
Americans by a broad 19-point margin support the nuclear deal with Iran announced last week, even as two-thirds in an ABC News/Washington Post poll express skepticism it’ll work – and relatively few give Barack Obama credit for bringing it to pass.
The public by 56-37 percent backs the agreement, a signature foreign policy goal of the Obama administration. It lifts economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for Iran agreeing not to produce nuclear weapons and allowing international inspectors to monitor its nuclear facilities.
The caveats are noteworthy – the public is clearly skeptical about Iran’s commitments – but they’re also largely irrelevant given the current context. The question before policymakers is whether the diplomatic agreement should proceed or be destroyed. At this point, after months of far-right pushback, the public still supports the deal. If it doesn’t work, the policy falls apart. If it does work, Americans will be pleasantly surprised.
As of this morning, the United Nations Security Council is also on board, voting unanimously for a resolution that “creates the basis for international economic sanctions against Iran to be lifted.”
Members of Congress aren’t happy about the fact that the international agreement was taken up by the U.N. before it was debated on Capitol Hill, but let’s not forget that the Obama administration is following “in the footsteps of the George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush administrations,” both of which took matters of national security to the U.N. before Congress.
So where does this leave us?
Most Americans support the deal.
The U.N. Security Council supports the deal.
Dozens of former national security officials from previous U.S. administrations support the deal.
More than 100 former American ambassadors from previous U.S. administrations support the deal.
Experts in nuclear policy support the deal.
U.S. allies in Europe support the deal.
That’s not a bad foundation as the debate gets underway in earnest. To be sure, opponents of nuclear diplomacy will point out that some unsavory characters also back the deal – and one U.S. ally doesn’t – but all things considered, the White House has to be pleased with how broad the backing is for the historic diplomatic agreement.
As for Congress, the picture is far less heartening – Republicans have been itching to kill the diplomatic framework, sight unseen, for months, and many Democrats are worried about the politics of supporting a popular international agreement that keeps nuclear weapons out of the hands of a U.S. enemy. Will the House and Senate have the support necessary to scuttle this once-in-a-generation opportunity, undermining U.S. leadership on the global stage? Watch this space.