As the debate over President Obama’s deal with Iran on nuclear weapons begins, and more details about the agreement emerge, it is becoming clear that Congress has to do the responsible thing and step up to halt this agreement. This is a bad deal reached by a reckless president who is desperate to have another accomplishment as part of his legacy in his waning days in office. It is not a responsible measure that will protect America and our allies, both in the region and around the globe, from the prospect of Iran developing nuclear weapons capability.
Those who doubt the agreement are not merely partisan enemies of President Obama’s offering knee-jerk opposition, as he has falsely portrayed them, but also some of his closest allies. Several prominent members of his own party are opposed to this deal, including Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, who is expected to become the next leader of Senate Democrats. Around the world, close allies of the United States — including Saudi Arabia and Israel — have expressed concerns about the deal.
However, the real test is not whether the United States can convince skeptical allies of the value of the deal, but its own Congress. After all, this is a Congress that rejected Obama’s attempts to pursue an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against the Islamic State in Syria. This was one of the most stunning rejections of a presidential request to use force in American history, and it was not without cost. It showed that the American tradition of politics stopping at the water’s edge — that is, that there was a consensus on foreign policy, regardless of domestic politics — was over. No longer would the United States Congress feel obligated to simply rubber-stamp the president’s foreign policy decisions.
Thus, President Obama finds himself in his current quandary. His failure to lead has empowered Congress to the point where its members feel they are able to reject this Iran deal, as well they should. This deal does not truly give the United Nations the ability to inspect nuclear sites wherever they wish. Rather, it gives Iran the power to delay inspections (by as much as 24 days, if they follow the full process) to unreasonable levels. Even if negotiations on the accord could not result in full-time, anywhere, 24-7 inspections — which, despite the portrayal by opponents, is not an absurd standard — we should have gotten something close to it.
Instead, we got an agreement that actually allows Iran to inspect its own nuclear sites. No wonder Israel feels insecure. While it is true that American foreign policy should never be left to another country to determine, in this case, the United States would be wise to defer to its allies in the region — who were never included in the negotiations. Israel insists, wisely, that the Iran deal is a threat to its national security, which only increases the likelihood of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon. Here, we should listen to our ally, not only because Iran’s foremost desire is the destruction of Israel, but also because its secondary goal (and informal national motto) is “Death to America.”
While this deal may benefit Obama’s legacy, it is of no benefit to the United States and its allies. The fact that sanctions got Iran to the negotiating table in the first place show that sanctions work, and that we ought not to abandon them in a rush for false peace. If, instead, we pursue the previous strategy — of containing Iran’s attempts at regional hegemony and maintaining sanctions — we stand a stronger chance of success. It is important to remember that the only two options in this matter are not, in fact, war or peace, but war, containment, or peace.
Containment has worked for decades. We should not abandon it now.