But seriously, now that the president has announced this framework agreement with Iran, calling it “a good deal, a deal that meets our core objectives,” what should Republican leaders do?
If you’re a Republican congressional leader, your best option is probably to mostly go along with the deal. Be skeptical and hedge, emphasize the need for verification and keep a spotlight on the situation — but don’t try to blow up the framework before the “final deal” is announced in June. And I would try to placate the rank-and-file in Congress with something other than a vote on the agreement, which would only incite the Iranians and do nothing to make Obama take firmer action.
This is probably the best deal that can be reached while Obama is still president. We don’t want a complete breakdown with Iran or for the Iranians to begin running full-throttle for a nuclear bomb while Obama is still in the White House. Let’s face it: Obama isn’t going to use force to stop the Iranians from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The Iranians know it, we know it, everybody knows it.
This “framework” is one Obama was given by the Iranians; it is not one that was truly negotiated. The Iranians wanted this deal because they want the economic sanctions lifted and their nuclear options open. It looks as if they’ve achieved their goals, and it’s unlikely they will do anything to prove their ally in the White House wrong in the next 20 months. So we can assume the Iranians will take it slow for the remainder of the Obama term and then re-assess what they want to do regarding their pursuit of a nuclear weapon. But given their consistent record of deceit and their stated objectives of destruction and genocide, particularly directed at Israel, no one can really believe this deal ends the Iranian threat.
If you are a Republican running for president in 2016, you have to be matter-of-factly against the framework agreement. Almost everything Obama touches turns to mud, so you can’t dare invest anything in supporting any of his initiatives. And many — if not all — Republican primary voters could never bring themselves to believe Obama’s foreign policy has made us safer. So if a real deal with Iran does get signed and everything works out, that’s fine. But if there turns out to be no deal, or the deal goes sour, there is a chance you will have to be the one who needs to step up to the plate as president and actually do something. It’s best for our potential Republican candidates to show some healthy skepticism and continue to say that this agreement does not ensure our safety.
Republicans are in the awkward position of knowing that this deal is flimsy, that we must assume the Iranians will cheat and that Obama would never admit it if sudden violations or other flaws appear. But Republican belligerence, particularly in Congress, would not serve a useful purpose. If this agreement at least slows Iran’s march toward a bomb, maybe a Republican president can finish the deal starting in 2017.