Evidencing a bit of panic, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf took to Twitter to bat down the errant report that Secretary of State John F. Kerry was recommending a vote on sanctions –likely to go into effect if no final Iran deal is reached (after an expected extension). Of course, it’s not true. No one who’s been following Kerry’s tenure at state would think he’s figured out that leverage is needed to force the Iranians to give up their drive to nuclear capability.
We can expect briefings in the next few days behind closed doors in which Kerry pleads that more time is needed, “gaps” are closing and any sanctions, even conditional on no deal after one more extension, would mean war. (Really, that’s how these people think.) He may implore Congress to wait another three months or another six, but he’ll certainly reject any insinuation that he’s being played for a fool and wasting time. If he didn’t understand that in the “peace process” why would he wise up now?
Kerry and Democratic lawmakers carrying water for the White House (primarily by opposing a vote on sanctions) should understand what doesn’t pass the laugh test at this point:
“This is the last extension. And this time we mean it.”
“We are getting Iran to freeze its program, so that’s progress.” (Sorry, keeping ill-gotten gains to pull out at a time of their choosing isn’t progress.)
“We’re not going to negotiate in public — or tell you in private — where talks stand. Trust us.” (Given Kerry’s utter failure to assess reality and his constant “surprise” when bad guys act like bad guys, the suggestion is absurd.)
“We already told you no deal is better than a bad deal.” (Unfortunately Kerry’s idea of a good deal is well below an acceptable deal for our Mideast allies and for a large, bipartisan majority in Congress.)
“Here’s the deal — they destroy 1,000 centrifuges, ‘freeze’ everything else, allow limited inspections and ‘repurpose’ Arak, and we lift sanctions. They don’t reveal past activities.” (You’re kidding, right?)
Because there is no good reason to hold off on sanctions, look for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to do what he always does — carry water for the White House and deny a vote. (This is one of many reasons — his refusal to vote on important matters — to give the Senate majority to the Republicans.) Democrats will make nice speeches but no vote will occur.
The problem for Obama remains. Iran won’t agree to essential parts of a minimally acceptable deal and a bad deal won’t get Senate approval to lift sanctions. Moreover, if the Senate flips to the GOP, you can be sure a vote — an overwhelming one — on sanctions will occur. Obama likely will be staring at a veto-proof sanctions bill.
Republicans should make clear what they would vote on if Harry Reid weren’t holding the Senate hostage. (Don’t bother telling Kerry to walk away from the table. He won’t.) And then be crystal clear: Failure to reach a deal or the prospect of a bad deal is solely the White House’s doing (they put Reid up to the sanctions blockage, of course.) Press Hillary Clinton: What would she do? And then use oversight hearings again and again to cajole the White House on sanctions, equipment transfers to Israel (what about some bunker-busters?) and regional security.
And those people who say it doesn’t matter who wins the Senate? Nonsense.