To Stop Iran — Stop The “Fast-Track”!

Is President Obama bewildered, befuddled and bemused over events in the Middle East? Given the fact that he is about to conclude a very bad nuclear deal with Iran, that he is supplying intelligence information to the Saudis as they bomb pro-Iranian militias in Yemen, that he is bombing Sunnis in Iraq to support Iran-led forces, and that he is blaming Israel for everything else that is going wrong with his incomprehensible position in the Middle East, the current lame-duck president does indeed appear confused.

Now word is out (not by Israeli spies) that Obama would allow Iran an extended period of time before it would be required to disclose the nature and history of the military dimension of its nuclear research. This extension could amount to a number of years. In other words, instead of transparency being built into the deal up front, secrecy would be maintained at least until such time as Obama has left office. This goes against all the warnings of IAEA and all other nuclear experts. If military secrecy becomes the mainstay of such a sweetheart deal, how can anyone in the world even believe that a one-year (or less) breakout time could ever be detected? Without upfront knowledge of past Iranian nuclear advancements, inspectors would hardly know where or what to look for in case of potential cheating. And in the past, the Iran nuclear program has been rife with cheating. In fact, Iranian subterfuge escaped Western intelligence for years before it was finally detected! Cheating is why there are sanctions and negotiations in the first place.

Obama seems desperate for any kind of nuclear deal. The transparency issue is merely the tip of the iceberg. He needs a major foreign policy achievement because of the conflicting natures of his voters and his financial support base. This contradiction has limited the successes of his domestic agenda. Obama likes to think of himself as a left-wing progressive. On issues involving Israel he certainly behaves as if he comes out of the New Left tradition of the 1960’s. But when it comes to trade policy and corporate Wall St. control of essential domestic and economic affairs, Obama butters his political bread (donations) in the boardrooms of big business. The far-left of his party loves him when he attacks Bibi. But on the issue of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the dubious constitutionality of the fast-tracking of this vast free-trade agreement, the mainstream center-left and organized labor (AFL-CIO) feel completely sold out.

Obama has increasingly alienated the Democratic Party’s traditional working-class voter. In this way, his presidency appears similar to Jimmy Carter’s. But unlike Carter, Obama is no longer running for re-election. So unless his working-class base can override the lame duck president’s promises to his Wall St. buddies, Obama and the Republicans could pass the TPP. This would be very bad news for working-class America, as more American manufacturing jobs will be lost forever. Obama can become quite dangerous to his perceived enemies (like Bibi). But in the new Washington, the enemy of your enemy can certainly become your friend. And so it must be when it comes to the Iran nuclear deal.

The Republicans want to override an inevitable Obama veto on the Corker Bill which would ensure a US Congressional vote on any potential Iran nuclear deal. At the same time, many Democrats want to stop the fast-tracking of the TPP which, if not stopped, would preclude the ability to amend this free-trade agreement. This raises two key questions. First, what is more important to the left-wing of the Democratic Party, stopping the fast-track or signing a very bad deal with Iran? And second, what is more important to conservative Republicans, stopping a very bad nuclear deal with Iran or giving more executive power to a Democrat president? Do we have the makings of a deal here?

The majority of the Democratic Party is pro-Israel. The average Democratic voter does not understand Obama’s New Left animus toward America’s most trusted ally in the Middle East and the only sovereign Jewish state in the world. At the very least, Democratic voters would like the Congress to have a say on the Iran nuclear deal. The US Constitution requires a two-thirds super majority on any treaty. And the Iran nuclear deal is the most important arms-control agreement to be signed since the end of the Cold War. Why not let the Congress weigh in? But as of this writing, many Democratic senators (especially in the progressive wing) seem to be siding with Obama on his baffling and befuddled Iranian policy.

For conservative Republicans, the idea of equal branches of government is sacrosanct. That is why the Corker bill is so very important. Simply put, Congress must pass all treaties. Mere executive agreements are some weird anti-constitutional construct of the era of the “imperial presidency”. But so too is “fast-track authority” on free-trade agreements. Its constitutionality is dubious to say the least. Obama has become the quintessential lame-duck imperial president. So why reward him with such extra-legal powers as “executive agreement” and “fast-track authority”? The vast conservative base of the Republican Party is opposed to both. This has been established in poll after poll. The Republican Party must decide on its priorities. Do the US Constitution and the Republicans’ own conservative base come before its many friends on Wall St.? Or are its true principles the reverse?

In order to stop the Iran nuclear deal, the Corker Bill must have enough Democratic votes to override Obama’s veto. In order to stop “fast-track authority” on the TPP, enough conservatives must join with progressives to get the job done. Gentlemen and gentlewomen of the US Congress: Do we have the makings of a deal?

My blog will go on vacation for two weeks. I would like to wish my readers a very Joyous Passover and a Happy Easter. As you know, this is the year that the two holidays completely merge on the calendar. I pray that this rare event is a very good omen.

About the Author
Steven Horowitz has been a farmer, journalist and teacher spanning the last 45 years. He resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. During the 1970's, he lived on kibbutz in Israel, where he worked as a shepherd and construction worker. In 1985, he was the winner of the Christian Science Monitor's Peace 2010 international essay contest. He was a contributing author to the book "How Peace came to the World" (MIT Press).
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