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Phares to “Aljoumhouria”: Congress will exert pressure on Obama to end the Iranian nuclear deal "
By Dr Walid Phares
Nov 12, 2014 - 8:48:23 PM

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In an interview with the daily al Joumhouria in Beirut, Dr Walid Phares said that "the new US Congress will pressure the Obama Administration to end the Iranian nuclear deal." Phares argued that "since the Iranian regime has only demonstrated its intentions to expand in the region and to develop strategic weapons systems including the nukes, a bipartisan majority in the US Congress will move against the deal."

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In an interview with the daily al Joumhouria in Beirut, Dr Walid Phares said that "the new US Congress will pressure the Obama Administration to end the Iranian nuclear deal." Phares argued that "since the Iranian regime has only demonstrated its intentions to expand in the region and to develop strategic weapons systems including the nukes, a bipartisan majority in the US Congress will move against the deal."

Following is the interview in English (the version in Arabic has been posted)

Written by Mey Alsayegh

The recent Congressional elections in United States will definitely lead to a change in the states , but However, that does not mean we will witness a radical change in the short term in the policy of the Democratic President Barack Obama after the defeat of his party in the face of the Republicans who won the majority in the House of Representatives and Senators, but at least the resident of the White House is going to tighten ropes during the remaining two years of his mandate with Republicans who will try to pass their political agenda at the local and external levels, at least through compromises .

The new Congress will take the control in January, that lead to raising questions of the future of the relation between the democratic administration and the Republican party that holds the majority in the two houses and the impact of that on the Americas foreign policy concerning Iran, Lebanon , The Islamic state (Isis) and Syria.

The answer of these Questions can be realized in the analysis approach of Dr Walid Phares, an advisor to the US Congress on the Middle East and a professor of international relations in Washington DC , in an inclusive interview for “Aljoumhouria" , identifying the horizons of the future relations between the new Congress and the democratic administration.

And it is worth mentioning that Dr Phares was born in Lebanon and practiced as a lawyer until 1990 when he immigrated to the United States, and he was the senior national security and foreign affairs advisor to Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney in 2011 and 2012 and was his co-chair for Middle East affairs.

Furthermore, He is the author of many books including "The Coming Revolution" of 2010 which predicted the Arab Spring and the latest is "The Lost Spring: US Policy in the Middle East and Catastrophes to Avoid'.

Mey: To what extent the victory of the Republicans in the midterm elections of Congress after having the majority in House of Representatives and senators will complicate the mission of American president Barack Obama in the rest two years of his term?

Dr Phares: The forming of a new Republican majority in both houses of the US Congress will change the political landscape in the United States till the end of 2016. The new Congress has a different agenda than the Obama Administration on many levels and in many areas. First in the area of domestic affairs, there are diverging views on economy, jobs, border protection and immigration. The new Congress, being produced by the latest popular election, two years after Obama's Presidential election, has the legitimacy of such representation and also has a popular mandate. And in addition to their victory in Congress, the Republicans also won a number of Governors' elections, including in important states such as Michigan, Illinois, Massachusetts and Florida. Thus Congress will offer new legislation and it is really up to the President to sign on these bills or not. Congress will do its job as it was mandated. It will be up to Obama to move the process of Governance forward or create a stalemate. When the people send a new majority in Congress, it is logical that the President has to change course and compromise with the legislative branch.

Mey: Do you expect that the Republicans will try to make a compromise with Obama and share with him governing or we will witness a Congress in a stalemate?

Dr Phares: Yes, the Republicans will offer negotiations, compromise, and new alternative policies. One must understand that the new majority represents a new thinking, or an alternative thinking and choices. And the Administration's ideas are the ones advanced over the past years. So a compromise will be when the existing ideas would modify to accept a dose of new ideas, not the other way around. Congress will negotiate with President Obama and send bills to his desk. He will have to consider these bills and call for modification or sign on them. The obstruction will come from the White House not from Congress. In past years there were divided Governments such as under Bill Clinton, and there was a compromise. The difference is that the Obama Administration has acted ideologically, which means it felt that its agenda is one that has to be accepted in totality or else it won't achieve its goals. The intellectuals of the Administration have adopted a sense of superiority, as in "they know better" than the rest of the nation. It is going to be difficult for team Obama to accept modification or consensus, because of the hardcore radical circle of intellectuals impacting the militant base. But in the end, compromise is unavoidable.

Mey: Usually, we see that the Americans focus on local issues to determine their electoral choices, but this time we touched that Americas feel displeased of Obama’s foreign policy that affected the image of United States as a superpower, what is your comment on that?

Dr Phares: It is true that in general terms, most American voters decide their electoral choices mostly on domestic issues, economic, social, financial, and legal matter. But in this last election there were certainly other factors that added to the factors, and some of these factors had to do with foreign policy. Though issues in international affairs didn't make the core of electoral decisions, but contributed to it. Among the matters that impacted the psyche of the voters were the beheadings of US citizens by the "Islamic State" (Daesh). Most average Americans felt this was personal. The victims of Terrorists were just regular Americans who didn't do anything against anyone such as these journalists, human rights workers, but also the bloody attacks and beheading in the US and Canada lately. There was an undeclared dizziness among regular folks. Furthermore, the pictures coming via media and Youtube for months about the horrors perpetrated by the Jihadists, the massacre of Yazidis and Christians in Iraq, the brutal killing of Syrians and the statements made by Jihadists in English, all that created an atmosphere of concerns. Besides the news coming from around the world were not good: Russia, Ukraine, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, and Iraq and of course the failure of the Iran deal to materialize. Each one of these issues alone didn't convince people to change their opinion, but the gathering of all issues created an atmosphere of instability. And when that happens, voters tend to seek an alternative choice.

Mey: You did not expect radical changes in the American foreign policy in the short term after the Republican’s victory?

Dr Phares: The change of majority in Congress alone won't create massive changes in Foreign Policy, simply because it is the President and the executive power who hold the control over Foreign Policy. But Congress can have a significant influence as we saw in 2006 when the Democrats seized both houses. The Bush agenda then came to a halt. Policies didn't change, but they became impossible to pursue. Obama's Foreign policy won’t change, inasmuch as his domestic policies, but Congress will attempt to change their course. For example Congress will ask for increasing support to Egypt as it is fighting terror, it will demand to review the Iranian deal, it will propose different alternatives to fight the Islamic State, and it will ask to support and protect endangered minorities in Iraq and Syria. What Congress is the power of the purse that is the budgets and also the ability to hold hearings to give visibility to issues. So there will be attempts by Congress to impact Foreign Policy. In some areas they may be successful on others areas, there will be a stalemate.

Mey: Then, Will the Congress new majority have a different policy regarding Iran, Iraq and Syria?

Dr Phares: This Congress will take the control in January. Yes there will be new policies but I am not sure Congressional pressures are going to change the Obama Administration policies.
For example on Iran, I am sure that the new leaders of Congress will put pressures on Obama to end the interim nuclear deal and replace it with a new strategy. Will Obama accept to change? We don’t know. But Congress will do everything it can to stop that deal. In early 2015,I anticipate a confrontation between Congress and the Administration on the issue of Iran, not just the deal, but the entire US position regarding Iran.

Regarding Iraq, Congress will increase support to the Kurds and minorities in the north, including Yazidis and Christians, and from Baghdad government , Congress will demand less Iranian influence in Iraq in exchange of US support.
In Syria, Congress will also favor Kurds and Christians and request a real identification of moderate opposition inside the FSA. Congress rejects cooperation with Assad. Across the board Congress wants a real strategic fight against ISIS but without empowering Assad or Iran, but no major changes in view unless the situation on the ground explodes at a much larger scale.

Mey: What is your comment on President Obama's letter to Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution that includes a call for cooperation in fighting ISIS in exchange for an Iranian nuclear deal?

Dr Phares: This secret letter to Khamanei, now revealed in public, came at a very bad timing. With a new Congress ready to attack the nuclear deal and US policy on Iran, such a revelation will have consequences on the debate about the region in the US. Now members of Congress have learned that the President and his Administration have gone much farther in their outreach to Tehran. The Congress will use this secret letter to demand a full review of US policy towards Iran, which would reopen the debate about Washington's policies in Iraq, Syria and also Lebanon. The problem with the letter is that Iran's regime is on US terror lists and engaging such a regime which is a threat to US national security, without the knowledge of Congress, is a problem and will become a political problem.
Mey: What about Lebanon, will there be new US policies?
Dr Phares: Congress will stand for the disarming of all militias, including Hezbollah and at the same time would want to back the Lebanese Army against the ISIS and Nusra forces. Congress is looking to identify political forces which are willing to resume the Cedars Revolution, away from the Jihadists and Hezbollah alike.

Mey: To what extent does the midterm elections triggered the presidential elections race?

Dr Phares: Absolutely the midterm elections have already ignited the 2016 Presidential elections. With two houses in Congress and many Governors elected, the Republicans now have a vast network to count on for the Presidential contest. But the issue is the choice of the candidates. The Democrats more or less are now gathering around Hilary Clinton, but the Republicans are debating the options.

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