Uh oh: House Democrats ready to blow up Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran?
posted at 6:01 pm on December 6, 2013 by Allahpundit
The problem with O asking them to eat one crap sandwich after another on ObamaCare is that eventually there’s no room for dessert.
They abandoned him when he asked for congressional approval to bomb Assad. They’re not going to abandon him on this too. Are they?
The worry is that Dem Rep. Steny Hoyer, the number two House Dem, may join with GOP Rep. Eric Cantor on a resolution or bill that will either criticize the current temporary deal with Iran, or call for a new round of sanctions, or set as U.S. policy some strict parameters on a final deal with Iran, such as opposition to any continued uranium enrichment, House Democratic aides say. House Dems and outside foreign policy observers have communicated such worries to Hoyer’s office, sources add…
Any resolution or bill along these lines that has the support of any House Dem leaders would increase the pressure on Senate Democrats to pass a measure of their own, which the White House opposes. And some fear that a measure in the House itself — even if the Senate didn’t act — could have an adverse impact on international talks…
Senate Democrats are already debating whether to vote on a bill that would impose new sanctions on Iran that would take hold after the six month expiration of the temporary deal. But the White House has called on Dems to hold off, arguing that passing sanctions legislation could make it harder for both sides to continue negotiating after the six month mark if a deal is close. The administration also fears sanctions legislation could give Iran a way of arguing — and could create suspicions among the U.S.’s international partners — that the U.S. is negotiating in bad faith.
The last sentence is the killer. It’s one thing to make a deal with Iran that barely restrains their enrichment program, it’s another to break that deal yourself, giving them an opportunity to argue that the U.S. doesn’t want peace and can’t be trusted to keep its commitments, which means now they need a nuclear weapon — sorry, I mean “nuclear energy program” — more than ever. At the very least, you’d think Obama would have huddled with Reid, Pelosi, and Hoyer before the deal was struck and asked for their word that they wouldn’t support the GOP’s attempt to impose new sanctions. By keeping the split in Congress strictly (or mostly) partisan, Obama could have reassured Iran that anything passed by the House is simple contrarianism by the minority party and has no force of law. As it is, if Democrats join with the GOP and pass some form of new sanctions, Obama’s either going to have to symbolically side with Iran by vetoing it or they’re going to pass it with two-thirds majorities in both houses and impose sanctions over his veto, which will kill the deal. I assumed, after the Syria “red line” debacle, that he’d know by now to line up congressional support before doing or saying anything dramatic on foreign policy. Nope.
But look at it from the Democrats’ perspective. How do they sell a deal to their constituents that would let Iran continue to enrich uranium?
The White House is currently examining ways to enable Iran to have its own “domestic” uranium enrichment program, according to a senior Obama administration official…
“Over the next six months, we will explore, in practical terms, whether and how Iran might end up with a limited, tightly constrained, and intensively monitored civilian nuclear program, including domestic enrichment,” White House National Security Council (NSC) spokesman Caitlin Hayden told the Washington Free Beacon.
“Any such program,” she said, “would be subject to strict and verifiable curbs on its capacity and stockpiles of enriched uranium for a significant number of years and tied to practical energy needs that will remain minimal for years to come.”
There are ways to sell that to voters, but no way I can think of that doesn’t involve (a) first tutoring them on the difference between low-enriched uranium for reactor purposes and highly-enriched weapons-grade stuff and (b) asking them to trust that the UN, with help from western intelligence, will somehow ferret out any Iranian attempt to covertly convert one of those forms of uranium into the other. Bear in mind, per Walter Russell Mead, the UN is already saying that it needs more money to inspect Iran’s nuke facilities properly, so this process is beginning with the chief watchdog underequipped for the task. And the problem for O is that, realistically, Iran will never give up enrichment. Rouhani has pledged repeatedly since the Geneva deal was struck that the program will continue; the White House likely agreed to continued enrichment for just that reason, because they realize it’s a point of nationalistic pride for the regime and that demanding an end to it would mean the end of the deal.
Exit question: Imagine for a moment you’re a member of Congress. How much of your credibility would you want to stake on a big international agreement when the two parties to it are already bickering over what it does and doesn’t say?