Barack Obama knows that his Iran deal will be a tough sell with Congress. Since the Obama administration clearly abandoned its original negotiating red lines, expect the administration to rely on three straw-man arguments to win over skeptics on Capitol Hill.
1. “No deal inevitably leads to war.” In his post-deal press conference, President Obama stated: “Either the issue of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon is resolved diplomatically through a negotiation, or it’s resolved through force, through war.”
In fact, the alternative is not war, but a better deal that adheres to the Obama administration’s original, common-sense red lines:
- No uranium enrichment or plutonium reprocessing in-country
- Staged sanctions relief contingent on good behavior
- Dismantlement of excess nuclear infrastructure
- Full disclosure of Iran’s nuclear past
- Anytime, anywhere inspections
Backed by the credible threat of force, ramped-up sanctions and diplomatic isolation could have produced these concessions from Tehran — or pushed out the current regime.
This bad deal actually makes war much more likely. Iran now has two pathways to the bomb: It can either use the so-called $150 billion “signing bonus” and inspection-regime loopholes to cheat incrementally, or it can play by the rules but patiently amass industrial nuclear capability until the deal terminates. Under either scenario, a nuclear-threshold Iran will spur an avalanche of nuclear proliferation among its Sunni Arab rivals. Israel’s history of nuclear preemption suggests that Tel Aviv might strike before Iran achieves an industrial-size nuclear program. Sanctions and isolation formed an effective middle-ground policy between military strikes and supine diplomatic appeasement. The current deal creates a binary choice between war and capitulation.
2. “The sanctions regime would collapse without a deal.” Sanctions adopted by Congress and forced upon the Obama administration have proven the most effective in history. Serious sanctions were implemented only beginning in late 2011. In just two years, congressional sanctions put the Iranian economy on its back. Oil exports were halved, GDP shrank by one quarter, inflation jumped to 60 percent, and foreign reserves collapsed. Iran faced a balance-of-payments crisis until Obama’s November 2013 interim agreement helped Tehran back to its feet.
There is no evidence that other nations would abandon sanctions. The most likely defectors — Russia and China — half-heartedly implemented sanctions in the first place. Yet, for argument’s sake, suppose that every country other than the United States lifted sanctions. If that came to pass, U.S.-only sanctions would still confront every company and individual wishing to do business with Tehran with a stark choice: You can do business in Iran or in America, but not both. It’s doubtful that anyone would really forgo access to U.S. markets solely to do business with a corruption-riddled, state-controlled economic basket case.
3. “Don’t play politics. Everyone else thinks this is a good deal.” During his press conference, President Obama also stated: “Ninety-nine percent of the world community and the majority of nuclear experts look at this [deal] and they say, ‘This will prevent Iran from getting a nuclear bomb.’” A better test of international acceptance is the deal’s reception among Iran’s neighbors and those most directly threatened by Iranian support for terrorism and proxy fighters. On that score, it’s clear that America’s allies and friends are terrified and our enemies are jubilant.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the agreement a “historic mistake” and a “double bonanza [for Iran] of a guaranteed pathway to a nuclear arsenal and a jackpot of money to continue its aggression.” Our Sunni Arab partners have responded with deafening silence. In contrast, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said that the deal will make Iran “richer and wealthier” and more emboldened to “stand by its allies.” Syria’s brutal dictator, Bashar al-Assad, hailed his patrons in Tehran for winning a “great victory” and expressed confidence that Iran will “with greater drive” support “just causes” such as funding global Islamist terrorism and proxies in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen.
Iran’s clients believe that this deal strengthens Tehran’s hand. Iran’s enemies (and our partners) believe that this deal is a nightmare for regional security.
Despite earlier missteps, Congress can still keep Obama’s reckless, inexcusably one-sided deal from taking effect. Doing so will require members of Congress to act with rare courage, putting the security of the American people above personal and party ambitions. Congress can override the president’s promised veto of a bill disapproving the Iran deal if the American people draw their own red line for Congress. Voters must clearly communicate to their members of Congress that crossing that red line will exact an unacceptably high price come November 2016.
Original Op-Ed on NationalReview.com