The deal that would ostensibly forestall Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon is not even done yet, but the world is already skinning those carrots that have been dangled in front of the Islamic Republic for years.
This week, 47 GOP senators prompted Democrats to engage in a wild and ridiculous overreaction when they wrote a letter to Iran reminding the Mullahs of their constitutional role providing legitimacy to international agreements negotiated by the executive. Democrats have apparently made common cause with the hardliners in Iran. On Friday, the president’s allies were joined by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who said the letter was indicative of “a decline in the political ethics and the destruction of the American establishment from within.”
Despite the fact that Democrats continue to insist that this letter was a debacle that only reflects poorly on the Republican signatories, the White House and the world continue to recalibrate their actions in response to the short and relatively innocuous text.
This week, both State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki and Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed that any nuclear arrangement with Iran would be precisely what the 47 Republicans said it was without Senate ratification: “A mere executive agreement.” It will also be an agreement that could easily be undone by successive GOP presidents.
Conceding this, Reuters reported that the administration and the United Nations Security Council are crafting new resolutions that would ease sanctions on Iran in the event that a deal is struck between the Islamic Republic and the P5+1. The U.N. and the administration are also hoping that a comprehensive United Nations resolution can serve as a legally binding international treaty that would prevent Republicans from what one unnamed American official described as sabotaging the accord.
The official said that the Security Council had mandated the negotiations over the U.N. sanctions and therefore has to be involved. The core role in negotiations with Iran that was being played by the five permanent members meant that any understanding over U.N. sanctions would likely get endorsed by the full council, the official added.
Iran rejects Western allegations it is seeking a nuclear weapons capability.
Officials said a U.N. resolution could help protect any nuclear deal against attempts by Republicans in U.S. Congress to sabotage it. Since violation of U.N. demands that Iran halt enrichment provide a legal basis for sanctioning Tehran, a new resolution could make new sanction moves difficult.
“There is an interesting question about whether, if the Security Council endorses the deal, that stops Congress undermining the deal,” a Western diplomat said.
Sure, it’s tasteless for the American president to go over the heads of the American legislative body and appeal to an unelected council of international diplomats in order to outmaneuver his domestic opposition. This kind of behavior is also precisely what the American people have come to expect from Barack Obama.
In an effort to defuse tensions and restore the Senate GOP’s role in advising and consent to the president’s conduct of American foreign affairs, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) is backing a bill that would require the president at least submit the text of the Iranian nuclear deal to Congress for a 60-day review process. The Washington Free Beacon’s Matthew Continetti is not impressed.
If the deal with Iran were a treaty, Obama would have to submit it to the Senate, and would be responsible for producing the 67 votes for ratification. But it’s clear that Obama has no intention of sending anything to Congress. He’s more likely to send the deal to the United Nations.
That’s because Obama knows he doesn’t have the votes in Congress for ratification. What Corker doesn’t understand is that he doesn’t have enough votes to either pass his bill or give its resolution of disapproval teeth. Neither side has 67 votes. The matter is too important; the emotions too strong; the consensus long undone.
The Iran Agreement Act initiates a phony process that in the best case leaves Iran hawks exactly where they are right now: in search of 67 votes to pass sanctions and torpedo a bad deal that puts Islamic fundamentalists on the threshold of becoming a nuclear power. The best you can say about the bill is that it provides the chance to pass a resolution of disapproval that can’t be filibustered—but that resolution also can’t become law as long as Obama is president.
Both congressional Democrats and Republicans are deeply opposed to the language that is likely to form the backbone of the nuclear accord with Iran. The temporary partisanship that has characterized discussion about the accord as a result of Sen. Tom Cotton’s (R-AR) letter cannot trump the foundational flaws in this arrangement with which many Democrats are uncomfortable. Eventually, the partisan rancor will fade, but the deal Obama has negotiated will remain in place.
Continetti advises Republicans to stand pat, cease their efforts to appeal to an authoritarian White House, and make the party’s case for 2016. That is a sound course, so long as the party refuses to be intimidated by hyperventilating Democrats and their mimics in the press corps.