Nevertheless, he advises: “There would be an implicit understanding that Iran would limit its program and that there would be no additional sanctions. There would probably be a formal break in the P5+1 talks for a few months, but continued meetings from time to time between the Iranian foreign minister and the EU foreign policy chief or even Secretary of State John Kerry would take place to see whether negotiations might be resumed. If nothing else, this would show that diplomacy was continuing.” He also advises we reveal the series of compromises we have made over the course of negotiations to demonstrate we, but not Iran is operating in good faith.
As for the latter, I sincerely doubt the administration will want to reveal the degree to which it has tried to appease Iran and undercut its own negotiation position. As Ross catalogs, we have come a long way from Obama’s promise to remove Iran’s nuclear weapons capacity (“agreeing to allow Iran to avoid suspending uranium enrichment, despite UN Security Council resolutions mandating it do so; accepting that Iran should be treated like any other NPT signatory after the full implementation of the comprehensive agreement despite its past transgressions; acquiescing to Iran’s insistence that it not acknowledge that it pursued a nuclear weapons program; not including the Iranian ballistic missile program in the proposed comprehensive agreement; accepting Iranian arguments against converting its Arak facility to a light water reactor and shutting down the Fordow facility; and accommodating the Iranian insistence on not dismantling centrifuges . . perhaps reduce output, disconnect the pipes, and be flexible on how many centrifuges might ultimately still operate”). The public and Congress would be rightly horrified, and the administration would once again be seen as feckless and untrustworthy.
Its ability to hold Congress at bay is virtually nil. Reacting to the news that the administration may try an end-run around Congress, House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-Ca.) issued a written statement Monday indicating just how low the administration’s credibility is: “When asked if the Administration would come to Congress to secure legislative relief of sanctions in a final agreement with Iran, in a Congressional hearing earlier this year, Secretary of State John Kerry responded: ‘[W]ell, of course. We would be obligated to under the law.’ He added that ‘what we do will have to pass muster with Congress.’” He concluded, “This report is another sign that the Obama Administration may strike an agreement that fails to protect the vital national security interest of the United States and our allies.”
As for the muddling through option, it suffers from the same flaw that an extension would: It demonstrates that Iran can remain a nuclear-threshold state with virtually no penalty. In the context of an extension, Ross argues that “the U.S. Congress is unlikely to accept continued restraint: Indeed, should the November election produce a Republican majority in the Senate, new sanctions against Iran are likely if the current negotiations fail. U.S. President Barack Obama would retain the ability to veto new sanctions legislation, but he would likely face enormous political pressure to sign it into law.” Would not the same occur if no deal at all was reached? There seems to be bipartisan consensus that either a good deal is reached or the Congress will increase sanctions.
Frankly, the premise behind these scenarios sketched out by Ross is that Obama will never act, and we must prevent an “escalation” of tension. The technical term for this is “giving up.” It concedes we are now in containment mode — where many of us suspected Obama was heading. It sees Congress as Obama’s “problem,” not the mullahs. And it assumes Israel will not act.
I have another idea. The administration explains to the American people and the Congress that Iran has never demonstrated any willingness to reveal its past illicit activities or dismantle its program. The White House should then request Congress enact additional sanctions and begin transfer of weapons to Israel that would be appropriate for an air strike. We could then commence consultation with our Sunni and Israeli allies. And then for good measure, we could show we have zero tolerance for WMD’s by belatedly taking out significant assets of the Syrian regime. Maybe Hillary Clinton could even recommend these steps. It sure would beat back the notion that she is no different than Obama.