As Donald Rumsfeld might say, you can’t start a war with the Republican Party you wish to have.
Republicans in Congress may want to stop the international nuclear deal with Iran. They may prefer to provoke a war with Iran than break bread. But they can’t. And it’s their own fault.
I mean that literally. President Barack Obama can only hold up his end of the deal by waiving sanctions passed by Congress. Obama has that waiver power because both parties in Congress gave it to him.
As I noted in a piece for Real Clear Politics earlier this year: “All the various sanctions bills passed by Congress, including those passed with bipartisan votes during Obama’s presidency, grant waiver authority to the executive branch. (And one of the main sanctions laws expires completely at the end of 2016.).”
Congress would have pass a law with a veto-proof supermajority to revoke that authority. Republicans can’t do that by themselves. And Democrats, even the hawkish ones, can’t join them without risking their seats unless public opinion is squarely opposed to the deal. The opposite is true.
President Obama won the nomination in 2008 in large part because he pledged to initiate direct diplomacy with Iran. It’s what further distinguished himself from Hillary Clinton beyond their positions on the Iraq War. It’s what exemplified Obama’s willingness to buck establishment wisdom and break from the failed foreign policy of the past. Now that the faith Democratic primary voters put in him seven years ago has been validated with a capstone, potentially game-changing peace agreement, it would be political suicide for congressional Democrats to betray Obama now.
Which is why in May, Senate Democrats didn’t betray Obama and forced Republicans to accept a defanged bill that gives Congress the ability to “review” any deal (power Congress inherently has anyway) but no power to insist Congress must ratify any deal.
The political dynamic is no different in July than in May. If they didn’t have the juice to kill off the preliminary agreement, they won’t be able to stop the final agreement.
While Republicans should acknowledge their legislative fingerprints on the deal, having given Obama his waiver authority, they also should come to terms with their political culpability: a party credible on national security perhaps could persuade the public that this deal is flawed.
The Republican Party is not that party.
This is the same Republican Party that gave us the Iraq debacle and has never taken responsibility for it.
The same people who railroaded us into war last decade by warning of “mushroom clouds” are singing the same song now.
“It will make everything worse and I live in fear that we have set in motion a decade of chaos,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). “This is delusional and dangerous,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz). “This ‘deal’ will only embolden Iran — the world’s largest sponsor of terror — by helping stabilize and legitimize its regime as it spreads even more violence and instability in the region,” said House Speaker John Boehner.
No one but the delusional right-wing is buying what they are selling now.
For months they have tried to turn public opinion against an Iran deal. They have excoriated every preliminary agreement. They shipped in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to sound the alarm. But it’s Bibi’s credibility among Americans that suffered, not the prospects for a deal.
A clear-thinking Republican Party, aware that George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq is their albatross, would not attack the international nuclear agreement in knee-jerk fashion. That only signals their appetite for more war remains robust.
Even if they were unwilling to shower President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry with praise, they could simply say something like, “We are hopeful that the agreement will succeed in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and we will monitor its progress carefully.”
That would indicate a belief that peace is preferable to war, and a willingness to try when an opportunity is in front of them.
Such political foresight and rationality is not yet present in this Republican Party. Which is why it is no position to stop a deal, or start a war.