Opponents of the international nuclear agreement with Iran seem to realize at this point that they’ve come up far short. The policy’s critics, nearly all of whom are Republicans, had high hopes that they could kill the diplomatic solution, using Congress’ August break to apply pressure, but their strategies backfired.
It’s against this backdrop that GOP lawmakers are scrambling to find last-ditch efforts. What if Republicans hold the vote on the anniversary of 9/11? What if they delay the vote and mount a new p.r. campaign?
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a struggling presidential candidate, has a very different approach in mind: the Republican senator wants to “strip the IAEA, a United Nations agency, of the U.S. portion of its funding.”
He’s not kidding. The International Atomic Energy Agency, whose inspectors will help ensure Iranian compliance with the nuclear agreement, receives roughly $88 million a year from the United States – and for those who take inspections seriously, that’s money well spent.
But for weeks, Graham has seen IAEA defunding as a kind of sabotage scheme: if the international agency doesn’t have the resources it needs to operate, there won’t be on-the-ground weapons inspectors monitoring Iran’s activities. Roll Call reported a few weeks ago:
Speaking to a few dozen people at a “No Nukes for Iran” town hall meeting in his home state, Graham also said Monday that he plans to block the transfer of $88 million in U.S. funds to the International Atomic Energy Agency until Congress gets access to so-called “side agreements” related to the Iranian nuclear agreement.Graham has power in this situation because of his role as chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations…. Graham said that without the military facilities being subject to inspection, it would be impossible to determine the prospect of development.
Just so we’re clear, Graham is a fierce opponent of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The senator nevertheless opposes an international agreement intended to block those ambitions and he’s even prepared to deny funding to the agency that’s responsible for making sure Iran isn’t cheating.
Graham can’t block the deal that puts inspectors in Iran, so he’s willing to undermine the inspections themselves.
Politico also reported in August that Graham specifically “warned” Secretary of State John Kerry that “unless the White House allows lawmakers to review the agreements forged between the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran, he will work to strip the IAEA of U.S. funding.”
It’s unclear just how many other GOP lawmakers are also prepared to defund weapons inspectors, but it’s a fight worth watching.