News reports tell us: “The Obama administration has agreed to allow Iran to operate 6,000 centrifuges to enrich uranium, up from a proposed ceiling of 4,000 reported two weeks ago, as part of negotiations for a nuclear deal, according to a website approved by the Iranian government. . . . Skeptics of a potential deal, including many U.S. lawmakers and Israel, worry that the administration may be too lenient in allowing Iran to keep centrifuges.” Indeed, a deal that leaves Iran with sufficient centrifuges to flip back on the switch, block inspectors and waltz into the club of nuclear powers would be disastrous. What is going on here?
Michael Singh argues, “The central aim of American policy toward Iran in recent years had been to persuade Tehran to make a strategic shift: away from a strategy of projecting power and deterring adversaries through asymmetric means, and toward one that would adhere to international norms and reinforce regional peace and stability . . . Iran does not, however, appear to have undergone any such change.” That is because the U.S. is giving Iran what it wants. “We are choosing to overlook, rather than counter, long-standing Iranian policies. This — combined with the concessions we have made in the nuclear talks, the ambiguity of U.S. policy toward the Assad regime and rising tensions with once-stalwart allies in the region — reinforce the impression that the United States, not Iran, is undergoing a strategic shift.”
Now, however, a new factor is added to the mix: A GOP-majority Senate. With that on the horizon, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) tells me this morning: “With each passing day, U.S. diplomats are offering more desperate concessions on Iran’s nuclear program — concessions making it inevitable that Iran will get nuclear weapons. Congress needs to quickly pass the Menendez-Kirk legislation to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.”
Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies hopes this will impact the negotiations: “The pressure is now on President Obama to bear down and negotiate a good Iran deal or face a resounding political defeat when the Senate votes ‘no’ on the deal.”
It is not only the Republicans who stand in the way of a give-away but disgruntled pro-Israel Democrats. A senior GOP aide says, “As bad as President Obama and Democrats were beaten last night, they won’t prove to be the biggest losers. That would be the Iranian mullahs and administration officials who have been fearing Congress would demand some accountability in the coming Iranian deal.” Until now, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has kept Democrats in line and prevented bipartisan action to prevent Obama’s capitulation. “With Dems in the majority, they had cover and basically stiffed any and all calls for accountability. Now, that cover is gone,” says the senior aide. “The new Senate GOP majority is going to take a much, much tougher line toward any deal.”
Given the magnitude of their losses and their anger at the White House, many Democrats will no doubt join Republicans and refuse to stick by a dangerous and flawed Iran policy. Look for them to join Republicans in demanding a vote on the deal and to set minimally acceptable terms.
The wild card may be Hillary Clinton, who, if nervous about the magnitude of the anti-Obama vote, might be well advised to take a stand against an Iran giveaway. If she does not, it becomes another issue tying her to the failed Obama foreign policy. She can either cozy up to the embattled president or show some of that aggressive and decisive leadership we keep hearing about.