There is a perverse sense of relief among the most fierce defenders of Israel and administration critics: Had the Iran deal been remotely reasonable, it would be hard to defeat. Now, it is not only possible but likely.
Full examination of the deal will unfold in the next few days. However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put it succinctly: “I would like to say here and now – when you are willing to make an agreement at any cost, this is the result.” And it is not pretty.
First, while Secretary of State John Kerry denies it, the deal acquiesces to Iran becoming a nuclear power: “At the heart of the agreement between Iran and the six powers—the U.S., U.K., Russia, China, Germany and France—is Tehran’s acceptance of strict limits on its nuclear activities for 10 years. These are supposed to ensure that the country remains a minimum of 12 months away from amassing enough nuclear fuel for a bomb. After the 10-year period, those constraints will ease in the subsequent five years.”
Despite warnings from members of their own party that a deal containing lifting of a conventional arms embargo would be a non-starter, the deal reportedly does just that in five years, according to the Russians. Other news reports suggest that the embargo on Iran’s illicit missile program will lift in eight years.
As for phased sanctions relief, Iran got its windfall. According to news reports, “The moment Tehran receives sanctions relief— including access to an estimated $100 billion in frozen assets overseas— will be on ‘implementation day,’ as one senior administration official put it on Tuesday morning in Vienna. That date is not set, and is entirely reliant on the pace of Iran’s initial haste in preparing for life under the deal.” That will put money in Tehran’s pockets to increase support for Syria (which understandably celebrated the deal), Hezbollah and Hamas.
As we knew from the framework, Iran gets to keep 6,000 centrifuges and its enrichment plant in a mountain (Fordow).
And on it goes.
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) were quick to denounce the entire exercise as a grievous, dangerous mistake. Cotton predicted a congressional “rebellion,” observing: “[I] just can’t imagine any United States Senator or Congressman voting to give Iran $100 billion or more in a signing bonus, and at the same time even opening the prospect of lifting the arms embargo.” Graham warned, “It’s incredibly dangerous for our national security, and it’s akin to declaring war on Sunni Arabs and Israel by the P5+1 because it ensures their primary antagonist Iran will become a nuclear power and allows them to rearm conventionally.”
House Speaker John Boehner released a statement that read:
His ‘deal’ will hand Iran billions in sanctions relief while giving it time and space to reach a break-out threshold to produce a nuclear bomb – all without cheating. Instead of making the world less dangerous, this ‘deal’ will only embolden Iran – the world’s largest sponsor of terror – by helping stabilize and legitimize its regime as it spreads even more violence and instability in the region. Instead of stopping the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, this deal is likely to fuel a nuclear arms race around the world.
The House of Representatives will review every detail of this agreement very closely, but I won’t support any agreement that jeopardizes the safety of the American people and all who value freedom and security. This isn’t about Republicans versus Democrats. It’s about right and wrong. And we will fight a bad deal that is wrong for our national security and wrong for our country.
With a deal this bad, one that caved not only on nuclear-related issues but also on conventional arms restrictions, the chances that neutral, respected figures will oppose the deal goes up. Look for former officials and outside nuclear experts to weigh in with a host of objections. For sober Democrats in the Senate who signed their name to multiple statements demanding terms far stricter than the ones we now are presented with, a no vote becomes much more likely.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was among the first presidential contenders to weigh in. “I expect that a significant majority in Congress will share my skepticism of this agreement and vote it down. Failure by the President to obtain congressional support will tell the Iranians and the world that this is Barack Obama’s deal, not an agreement with lasting support from the United States,” he said. “It will then be left to the next President to return us to a position of American strength and re-impose sanctions on this despicable regime until it is truly willing to abandon its nuclear ambitions and is no longer a threat to international security.” That will be the argument on which the 2016 election may turn.
Consider Hillary Clinton’s position. She dare not oppose the deal and yet her support for a foolish deal may be the death knell of her presidential ambitions. Her vows, we can predict, to make sure that the deal is strictly enforced won’t gain her any admirers — not when the strict terms of the deals give Iran essentially all it ever hoped for.
No wonder the president’s strategy does not even contemplate obtaining a majority of approval. His sole task and that of the legion of lapdogs will be to hold down the disapproval numbers in the Senate and House so that a veto of a disapproval measure cannot be overridden.
Netanyahu summed up the deal Congress will have to consider: “Far-reaching concessions have been made in all areas that were supposed to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons capability. In addition, Iran will receive hundreds of billions of dollars with which it can fuel its terror machine and its expansion and aggression throughout the Middle East and across the globe.” The president by giving away far more than his harshest critics ever dreamed made their job to defeat the deal a whole lot easier. And if the deal is not defeated but a Republican is elected, pulling the plug on the deal will be that much easier.
UPDATE: In a mature and strong statement, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker blasts the deal: “The nuclear agreement with Iran will be remembered as one of America’s worst diplomatic failures. The deal allows Tehran to dismantle U.S. and international sanctions without dismantling its illicit nuclear infrastructure—giving Iran’s nuclear weapons capability an American stamp of approval. In crafting this agreement, President Obama has abandoned the bipartisan principles that have guided our nonproliferation policy and kept the world safe from nuclear danger for decades. Instead of making the world safer, this deal will likely lead to a nuclear arms race in the world’s most dangerous region. What’s worse, the deal rewards the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism with a massive financial windfall, which Iran will use to further threaten our interests and key allies, especially Israel.”