In an email to Right Turn, sanctions expert Mark Dubowitz writes, “Remember when President Obama, Secretary [John] Kerry and other top officials promised Congress that they would use tough non-nuclear sanctions to deter and punish Iran’s malign behavior. Many Democrats supported the Iran deal based on those promises.” He continues, “Those administration promises were broken and that malign behavior now has gotten even worse. Now the administration is arguing that they don’t need any new authorities and are threatening to veto any bill no matter how limited in scope.” Democrats, sensitive as always to the White House’s demands not to disturb its Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action “achievement,” therefore object to meaningful sanctions. Congressional Democrats are only abetting the administration. The administration, if not met with bipartisan opposition, will continue to permit “a dynamic of Iranian blackmail that will handcuff the next president and paralyze U.S. policy on Iran,” as Dubowitz puts it.
Democratic hypocrisy has not gone unnoticed in the pro-Israel community. An official at a pro-Israel group recalls, “There was a firm commitment from many who supported the Iran deal that they would come through on tough non-nuclear sanctions on the Iranian regime. It is high time for them to deliver on that commitment because Iran has repeatedly and flagrantly disregarded restrictions on missile testing and development.”
Democrats get away with it because Republicans won’t force the matter. Cardin (D-Md.) and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) engage in endless discussions trying to reach a bipartisan consensus. Even with the newly released State Department report tagging Iran as the leading state sponsor of terrorism, Democrats won’t act forcefully. Democrats, if serious, could easily sign onto one or both pieces of Republican-backed legislation that would increase sanctions for human rights abuses, support for terrorism and illegal missile tests.
It’s high time that Republicans put their Democratic colleagues’ feet to the fire. The Senate majority leader has vowed not to bring Iran legislation to the floor unless it has 67 votes to sustain a veto. Why? He should instead make Democrats take the vote and explain their refusal to match rhetoric with deeds. Even Hillary Clinton has spoken forcefully in favor of new sanctions. Maybe she could lend her political capital to a legislative push. (If she refused, that would certainly be telling.)
Senate Democrats have become expert in talking a good game on Iran, while enabling the White House’s acquiescence. If Democrats pay no political price for doing so, they’ll keep on doing it. Right now that seems very likely.