December 10, 2013

With the blistering New York Times editorial condemning sanctions efforts underway in Congress (“a breakthrough agreement at risk” falsely implies there is a U.S. -Iran agreement on key points), you know the administration is nervous, very nervous. It seems bipartisan contingents in both the House and Senate are unwilling to be threatened by the totalitarian regime in Tehran, which has threatened to call off the whole deal (which isn’t even a deal) unless the Congress shuts up. It is quite extraordinary — both the Times and the mullahs vilifying Congress’s efforts merely to enforce the terms of U.N. resolutions on Iran’s illegal weapons program.

President Obama speaks by telephone with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. (Pete Souza for the White House via Agence France-Press)
President Obama speaks by telephone with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. (Pete Souza for the White House via Agence France-Press)

There are two sets of negotiations underway. In the House,  Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) are discussing a resolution that would set parameters — or rather remind the administration of its own parameters — for a final deal. This, in conformity with the U.N. resolutions, would require, among other things, an end to enrichment, dismantling of the Arak plutonium facility and unrestricted inspections. This is labeled “mischief” by the Times and a deal-breaker by the mullahs. Respect must be paid to Hoyer for resisting the bullies. With the House leaving town at the end of the week, we should know in the next 24 hours whether there is agreement on a resolution.

Over in the Senate, Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) are making progress on a sanctions bill that would kick in if Iran violates the terms of the interim deal (who knows what the terms are with no implementation deal?) and/or if there is no final deal embracing the terms of the U.N. resolutions. As with Hoyer, Menendez is for now standing up to Tehran and the Times.

This is not a partisan affair. Democrats and Republicans are both involved in efforts to stop Iran’s march toward a nuclear arms capability. Both sides are alarmed at a White House running toward appeasement.

At stake here is whether the administration seamlessly moves from the international consensus that Iran must not be allowed to enrich to a quiet form of containment, which the president vowed he would not do. Bret Stephens recalls that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel wasn’t clever enough to conceal the end game during his confirmation hearing. (“The Obama  administration’s policy on Iran’s nuclearization is containment, not prevention. The secretary of defense let that one slip at his confirmation hearings in January, and the media played it as a stumble by an intellectually overmatched nominee. But it wasn’t a stumble. It was a gaffe—an accidental, embarrassing act of Washington truth telling—by a guy who doesn’t do insincerity nearly as well as his boss.”)

Desperate to bolster Iran’s credibility, Secretary of State John Kerry blatantly misrepresented the Bush administration’s conduct, claiming it spurned an offer from Iran. My colleague Glenn Kessler awards three Pinocchio’s to Kerry  for going “too far when he describes this as ‘an offer to the Bush administration that they would, in fact, do major things with respect to their program.’ It was not an offer, but a vague listing of U.S. aims and Iranian aims to start off a diplomatic process — which came from the Swiss, not even from Iran. There were no actual specifics concerning the nuclear program; there is notably no mention of halting Iran’s nuclear ambitions.” No, Mr. Kerry, Iran has never been interested in giving up its program, and rather than confront that reality, the administration is not-so-discretely acquiescing. No wonder the Times and Tehran are all bent out of shape.

The left is plainly engaged on this one. Attack sanctions proponents, toss multi-lateral resolutions overboard, cast those defending the international stance on Iran as being disloyal to the president and threaten dire consequences if Congress acts. It is the same line the mullahs advance. Congress should choose: Follow Menendez and Hoyer or be cowed by Iranian threats?

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.