To some extent, Democrats couldn’t have escaped political ownership of the Iran deal even if Congress managed to hold the line and override a veto of a rejection of the deal. Democrats backed Barack Obama’s play to treat the deal as an executive agreement rather than a treaty, and then refused to issue an outright repeal of the statutes that would allow Obama to issue an unending series of waivers to sanctions on Iran without forcing a reversal of the treaty process on Republicans. Don’t forget that Corker-Menendez started as an attempt to close that option, but they couldn’t get enough Democrats to override a veto for a clean repeal. That’s how we ended up in a position where it now takes two-thirds of both chambers to reject a deal rather than two-thirds of the Senate to ratify it. (The question of whether this option should have passed at all is one Republicans will own for a long time to come, too.)
With Barbara Mikulski’s commitment to vote for the Iran deal, the indirect responsibility has evaporated. More than two-thirds of Senate Democrats have backed the Obama-Kerry deal, and as Jonathan Tobin writes at Commentary, the entire party owns it. And they should get ready for some serious buyer’s remorse:
Just as important, the deal did nothing to rein in Iran’s support for terrorism, halt its ballistic missile building program (which shows that the U.S. and Europe are as much Tehran’s target as Israel) or halt its push for regional hegemony.
Obama and the Democrats now say they will get behind Israel and strengthen its defenses even though the deal makes Iran a threshold nuclear power almost immediately. That renders talk of preserving Israel’s qualitative military edge over potential foes meaningless.
But what this means is that every act of Iranian terror, every instance of Hamas and Hezbollah using Iranian funds and material to wage war against Israel or moves against Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states must now be seen as having been enabled not just by Obama but also by his party.
If Iran cheats its way to a bomb before the deal expires or uses the wealth that Obama is lavishing on it to get them to agree to this deal to undermine regional stability it won’t be possible in the future for Democrats to say that this was simply Obama’s folly. No, by docilely following his lead for a deal that few of them were eager to embrace, the entire Democratic Party must now pray that the president is right and that Iran will seek to “get right with the world” rather than pursuing a religious and ideological agenda of conflict with the West and Israel.
In my column for The Fiscal Times, I take an even less optimistic approach than Tobin. With a deluge of cash from unfrozen assets and the certain rapid growth of its economy resulting from the end of sanctions, the Iranian mullahs will have no bars on their ability to fund terror and havoc throughout the region, and the world. Every single incident will reflect back on Democrats’ decision to unleash the mullahs. When it does, Democrats will discover belatedly the wisdom of the constitutional requirement for supermajorities on foreign commitments:
Obama and Kerry have won in the short term, but will expose themselves and their party to long-term political danger. The constitutional requirement for a two-thirds supermajority on treaty ratification exists to ensure that the US does not enter into foreign arrangements without a broad consensus to do so. That also has the practical effect of spreading political risk on a bipartisan basis. When things go wrong, both parties share the damage.
On this deal, there is no doubt that later events will call the pressure to sign a deal into serious question, even if Tehran never produces a nuclear weapon. Iran refuses to give up its support for terrorism, for instance, and claims to have no restrictions on arms. When its proxies are infused with billions of dollars in cash for terror operations and that results in terror attacks – in Gaza by Hamas, for instance, or in Yemen by the Houthis or in Jordan and Lebanon by Hezbollah – the funding for those terror operations will be presumed to have come from the lifting of sanctions on frozen Iranian assets. Increased oppression of Iranians by the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) will also result from access to more funds plus the increase in economic activity made possible by the lifting of other sanctions, making it less likely that the Iranian people can liberate themselves.
Furthermore, few will put much faith into the idea that Iran will cease its pursuit of nuclear weapons. This deal will force Sunni nations in the region to seek their own nuclear deterrent, and Saudi Arabia has already hinted that they will seek such weapons from Pakistan. That will start a nuclear arms race that can quickly escalate into a war, and into increased proxy-terrorist activity on the part of Iran to keep its edge in the region. …
Obama wanted an agreement for his “legacy,” and he’ll be out of office in sixteen months no matter what. John Kerry appears ready to go into retirement. But other Democrats who want to stick around will spend the next several years having to re-explain every time Iran’s theocrats act out why they allowed Obama to shove a bad agreement down the throats of Americans opposed to the deal – and it may be a long time before voters trust Democrats with foreign policy and national security again.
Tobin’s right that a change of course in Iran might validate the deal, but not even the White House is pretending this deal will do anything to stop Iran’s mullahs from seeking to dominate the region through terror and violence. The best chance for that kind of sea change was to keep economic pressure on Tehran, sap the IRGC of funds, and allow the Iranian people to liberate themselves from oppression. We’ve just dumped hundreds of billions of dollars in unfrozen assets and economic-growth potential into the bank accounts of their oppressors. Democrats own that, too.
As I conclude at TFT, the Iran deal is all over but the shouting — and Democrats will spend the next decade praying that’s all that happens.