Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is optimistic about the midterm elections and this batch of GOP candidates. He tells me, “This class of Republicans are Ronald Reagan acolytes. They are the cavalry coming over the hill.” And when it comes to Iran, Graham thinks it is just in the nick of time.
Like many commentators who read the reports of various harebrained offers the administration is making to Iran at the “P5 +1” talks, he believes that potentially “the biggest foreign policy blunder is still on the table.” He continues, “This is a North Korea deal in the making. [The Obama negotiators] are desperate for a deal.” The administration has promised again and again that “no deal is better than a bad deal,” but Graham is convinced the opposite is the case. As in North Korea, he fears there would be a deal, but the Iranians could break out at a time of their choosing. “They want a deal w-a-a-a-y too bad,” he says. “The Iranians are clever enough to suggest there would be cooperation [on a range of other issues] if they got a nuclear deal.”
The White House seems keen on allowing Iran to keep the bulk of its illicit nuclear program while relying on “transparency” and inspections to detect violations of a paper agreement. This formula did not work in North Korea, and it won’t in another closed society like Iran where inspectors can easily be kept at bay. Moreover, it assumes we have the intelligence capacity to detect when Iran is reaching the breakout point, an assumption disproved by a string of intelligence lapses on everything from the Islamic State to the strength of the Iraqi Army to the intentions of Russia.
Graham suspects President Obama all along has been “afraid of alienating the Russians and the Iranians. When you condemn the Russians for the Ukraine invasion but don’t give [the Ukrainians] weapons to defend themselves, it is just rhetoric.” Obama’s distaste for confrontation with Iran, he says, was plainly demonstrated in 2009 when “he would not help the Iranian people who were begging for moral leadership from the United States.”
Even if Congress refused to lift sanctions, Obama would stop enforcing them, he suspects. “[Obama] has completely miscalculated what Iran is up to. Given his red line history, given his taking boots off the ground [against Iran’s ally Syria], you know all you need to know about sanctions. He’ll blink in a New York minute.” He recalls that in briefings he has asked the Obama negotiators, “’Tell me what is different in this deal vs. what was in the North Korea deal?’ I still haven’t gotten an answer.”
The solution he thinks is legislation to require an up or down vote in Congress on any deal. However, he has not gotten a single Democrat to sign onto a bill that would deny Obama a blank check. “If it was a good deal I’d vote for it. A good deal would be to destroy Iran’s ability to break out. But I can’t get one Democrat to join in this legislation.” It is not hard to imagine the White House and its left-wing supporters are warning Senate Democrats not to interfere with the president’s dash for a deal, no matter what it might contain. In the past, congressional efforts have been rebuffed by the administration as interfering with a potential deal. “I’m not interfering with the negotiations,” he explains. He’s just demanding an up or down vote on the final product. Graham compliments Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). “Bob Menendez has been a strong voice on sanctions. But now we are talking about checks and balances.”
He says, “I hope this is an issue in the last 40 days of the campaign. I hope our candidates will challenge their opponents; ‘Do you think Congress should get an up or down vote?’” He thinks a big GOP victory would put Democrats on notice and help drum up support for his bill. Ultimately a Republican Senate would be the best guarantee that Obama would not give away the store. Graham remains confident the Republicans will pick up the needed six net seats. “I’m very optimistic because we’ve avoided killing ourselves this time. It’s the best crop of candidates I’ve seen in 20 years.” They might be the last chance to stave off a disastrous foreign policy move that will make the rest of the Obama presidency seem Churchillian by comparison.