Secretary of State John Kerry keeps telling us to trust him on Iran negotiations. But why should we? He’s gotten virtually every important issue wrong since taking office, and made some shockingly bad misjudgments.
He thought a “peace conference” could bear fruit on Syria. Wrong.
He thought the Palestinians were interested in a peace agreement. Wrong.
He thought we should have a special relationship with China. Wrong.
He thought Mohamed Morsi was a democratic leader with whom he could get along. Wrong.
And even before he became secretary, you will recall, he thought Bashar al-Assad could be wooed. He was convinced the Iranians could be engaged, and he tried to throw sand in the wheels on Iran sanctions. He likewise ran interference for the White House, trying to slow down the passage of sanctions against Russia (the Magnitsky Act). He was convinced we didn’t need troops in Iraq.
In short, only Vice President Joe Biden and the president have made so many wrong-headed judgments in the last five years. When Kerry assures us that he is not naïve on Iran, one must conclude he’s in no position to judge. (And the interim deal is so bad, we seem to have proof positive that he is willing to make asymmetrical deals with Iran that forfeit our leverage.)
The president has asked Congress and the American people to “give diplomacy” a chance with Iran. But what evidence is there that either Iran or his administration are going to deliver something acceptable? In the meantime, however, his interim deal is allowing Iran to replenish its coffers, changing the business psychology of those wanting to rush into the Iranian market, undermining the sanctions framework and signaling we have no real intent to use military force.
In a parliamentary system, Congress could deliver a no confidence vote to the administration on its Iran policy. The alternative, in place of sanctions, is resolutions in both Houses asserting the unacceptability of a final deal with Iran that leaves it with the means to obtain a nuclear weapon and the desirability of aiding Israel in any way possible in the event it is compelled to act. Would it be less than bipartisan at this point? I guess, but it is better for voters to know where members of Congress stand (in advance of the November elections) and to allow public opinion to work its will.
Josh Block, longtime Democrat and executive director of The Israel Project, e-mailed me, “The American people by 83-12 want all of Iran’s centrifuges dismantled, and if diplomacy can’t do it, they overwhelmingly support military strikes to do, including 61 percent of Democrats.” Seven of 10 want a sanctions bill passed. So take the vote and let the chips fall where they may. If the Democrats want to be on the wrong side of public opinion (and history), the GOP shouldn’t stand in their way. We might even find out how 2016 presidential contenders think about the most important foreign policy issue they are likely to face.