Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). (Photo by Matt McClain/ The Washington Post)
Opinion writer

For a guy who insists he is not “whipping” the Iran vote, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is doing a heck of a job whipping making the case against the deal. He has already debunked the notion that it is this deal or war.

On Tuesday, he made a separate argument: “There are parts to bomb-making that don’t involve nuclear isotopes. Even if you find nuclear isotopes [through inspections], you don’t know exactly what they are doing.” He continued, “You know, the Europeans, once they have these economic relationships with Iran—which we know they are very eager to have—are going to be reluctant to ask for an inspection, so I was troubled by that.” According to news reports, “Schumer — the presumptive next Senate Democratic leader and the only declared Democratic opponent to the deal in the Senate — also labeled the ‘snapback’ provisions meant to restore sanctions if Iran cheats ‘complicated and awkward.'”

Coincidentally, Reuters reported:

Violations of an arms embargo by Iran or restrictions on its missile program would not force an automatic reinstatement or “snapback” of United Nations sanctions under a landmark nuclear deal, although other options would be available, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday.

“The arms embargo is not tied to snapback,” Kerry said. “It is tied to a separate set of obligations. So they are not in material breach of the nuclear agreement for violating the arms piece of it.”

In fact a reading of the text suggests reinstitution of any sanctions allows Iran to escape from its obligations (e.g. go nuclear), making imposition of sanctions for non-nuclear related conducted much harder under the deal than without it.

Schumer is purportedly calling a slew of colleagues to whip explain his vote. This is classic Schumer — wielding influence, jaw-boning fellow lawmakers, using the bully pulpit and drawing more attention to his arguments. Already the Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, an anti-Iran deal group backed in part by the American Israeli Political Affairs Committee, put out a statement from eight former Democratic senators (Evan Bayh from Indiana, Mark Begich from Alaska, Mary Landrieu from Louisiana and Joe Lieberman from Connecticut) and congressmen (Gary Ackerman of New York, Dennis Cardoza of California, Peter Deutsch of Florida and Shelly Berkley of Nevada). Their statement read:

We applaud Senator Chuck Schumer’s decision to oppose the flawed nuclear agreement with Iran. As friends and former colleagues of Chuck’s, we are certain he reached this difficult decision as he always does—by applying his considerable intellect to a complete and careful interrogation of the facts.  Any insinuation that his decision was somehow other than thoughtful and heartfelt is baseless—and tasteless. . . . As former Members of the House and Senate who have been deeply immersed in the Iran nuclear issue for years, and all of whom supported other of President Obama’s key initiatives, we no longer have any ‘political interests’ whatever, and yet we support Chuck’s conclusion.

The choice is not between peace and war. The choice is accepting a deal that is fundamentally flawed, or pulling the P5 +1 back to the table to get the better agreement that is possible—if Iran is truly committed to renouncing its quest for nuclear weapons.

Schumer may not technically be whipping a vote, but he is doing something far more valuable to opponents of the deal: He is providing sound reasons to oppose it and thereby eviscerating the White House’s ad hominem attacks on him and other opponents.