Now that the Obama administration has managed — barely — to eke out a tenuous “outline” of a “framework” that would relieve Iran of sanctions, the question now is: Can a lame duck White House make a deal that paves the way for the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism to acquire nuclear weapons without giving Congress the chance to review it?
President Obama’s answer is: Yes, we can. According to a Fox News poll released this week, 76 percent of Americans respond: No, you shouldn’t. Those who pale at permitting the administration to evade congressional scrutiny point to its record of getting things in the Middle East very wrong, and its continuing need to “walk back” from confident proclamations.
Not long after the president dismissed ISIS as “junior varsity,” his representatives were telling Congress that the U.S. urgently needed to use military force against it. Shortly after solemnly pronouncing the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons a “red line” that Bashar Assad dare not cross, Obama avoided acting despite conclusive evidence that Assad had indeed crossed it.
Only months after Obama called U.S. efforts in Yemen a model for fighting terror and stabilizing Mideast allies, its government was routed by Iranian-backed rebels and American personnel were forced to evacuate Yemen altogether.
Obama’s assurances on Iran appear headed in the same direction.
“When the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon,” he told one interviewer, “we mean what we say.”
Maybe not so much; the “parameters” of the agreement negotiated in Switzerland would in fact permit Iran to obtain nuclear weapons within about a decade, and leave the West with no practical way of doing anything about it.
It is not only those who have lost confidence in this president’s judgment and credibility who believe that congressional review of executive actions with profound national security consequences is always important.
Back in 2008 Sen. Barack Obama would have been in that camp.
“The biggest problems that we’re facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all,” he said then. “And that’s what I intend to reverse when I’m president.”
He is now in full walk-back mode, however, pledging to veto legislation that would enable Congress to review his nuclear deal and approve it before it takes effect.
After all, on the one hand, the Senate is required to approve small-bore presidential actions like the appointment of ambassadors. So Obama is left to make the curious argument that the Senate must vet his choice for ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, but has no business reviewing a deal that will leave Americans hostage to a nuclear-armed Iran in perpetuity.
Among the questions to which Congress should demand answers are: Since the entire premise of sanctions relief is that Iran will be subject to “inspections,” and Iran has continuously thwarted such inspections, what is our assurance that things will be different going forward? With Iran relieved from sanctions and with no chance that we will ever take military action against it, won’t Iran be perfectly free to deploy nuclear weapons in about 10 years?
And since the deal will virtually guarantee a nuclear Iran in about a decade, won’t it also guarantee that Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries loaded with cash will act swiftly to obtain their own nuclear weapons? What is our plan for that?
In scripted chorus, administration spokesmen assure us that theirs is a good deal. Of course they do; they could hardly be expected to do otherwise. But if the benefits of this deal outweigh the jeopardy it will create, then the White House should have no objection submitting it to Congress, so that the representatives of the American people can confirm that they reach the same conclusion.
This piece was published previously in The Boston Herald