Iran Amok

Daily Best of the Web   —   Posted on September 11, 2015

Iran Amok

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD)

The following is an excerpt from OpinionJournal’s “Best of the Web” at WSJ written by the editor, James Taranto.

Iran Amok
It is difficult to keep up with all the absurd aspects of the politics surrounding President Obama’s Iran deal. We’ll do our best but expect to fall short.

Congress is poised to “approve” the deal, although bipartisan majorities in both houses oppose it. That’s because there are enough Democrats who support the deal – or “support” the deal; we’ll explain the scare quotes below – to deny a resolution of disapproval the two-thirds majorities required to override the threatened presidential veto.

But it’s unlikely the resolution of disapproval will even reach the president’s desk. Forty-two members of the Senate Democratic Caucus have announced their intention to vote against the resolution – enough to deny the 60 votes needed to bring it to a floor vote. The majority-rule House, meanwhile, plans to hold three separate votes, as the Hill explains:

One would be a resolution to approve the deal – which is sure to fail and, in the process, force many Democrats to break with the White House.

The second would be to express a sense of the House that the Obama administration has not met the requirements of the Iran review legislation by failing to give lawmakers the text of separate agreements between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Those bilateral side deals, which concern the details of inspections at some Iranian sites, are at the center of the House’s uprising over the Iran pact

Finally, the House would vote to prevent the U.S. from lifting sanctions on Iran as part of complying with the nuclear deal.

As a serious aside, several readers have written to ask—sometimes in earnest, sometimes rhetorically—why the deal isn’t a treaty requiring approval by two-thirds of the Senate. The answer is that the agreement entails no change in U.S. law, only the exercise of powers the executive branch already has under existing law, namely the statutes imposing U.S. sanctions on Iran and the United Nations Charter, a treaty ratified by the Senate in 1945, which establishes the Security Council’s authority to impose international sanctions.

That means the Iran deal will not be the “supreme law of the land,” and the next president will be free to reimpose sanctions if he chooses. But good luck persuading the Security Council to go along.

As for those scare quotes: Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat, made a strong case against the deal in a lengthy (more than 2,200-word) statement yesterday:

This agreement is not one which I would have negotiated, nor one I think should have been agreed to. . . . I believe this agreement gives too much to Iran and demands too little in return. . . . It strengthens a regime that has been adjudged by the United Nations, the United States, and a great number of the nations of the world as a sponsor and perpetrator of terrorism.

The Ayatollah Khamenei—not some backbench member of its parliament or out-of-government political or religious zealot—stated recently in unequivocal terms that America is Iran’s enemy and that the elimination of Israel is Iran’s intent. Throughout history, the world has witnessed the tragic consequences of the kind of fanaticism Iran’s leaders espouse. Too often, this rhetoric of hatred and murderous intent has been ignored with catastrophic results. It is a lesson the people of Israel know all too well, and they are justified in seeing this new threat through the lens of history. The international community has a moral and strategic obligation to ensure nothing like the Holocaust ever again occurs.

Despite all this and much more, Hoyer’s bottom line is this: “It is the agreement that the United States agreed to and that is now before the Congress. Although it was a difficult choice, I have decided to oppose a resolution of disapproval, albeit with serious concerns.”

Hoyer is not alone. Our colleague Dan Henninger quotes Connecticut’s Sen. Richard Blumenthal:

Describing his “support” for the Iran deal Tuesday, Sen. Blumenthal said, “This is not the agreement I would have accepted at the negotiating table.” More fantastic, Sen. Blumenthal said he and Maryland’s Sen. Ben Cardin will “begin the process of addressing (the deal’s) shortfalls, unwanted impacts and consequences.”

Cardin, we should note, is one of four Democratic senators who say they will vote against the deal—but as the Baltimore Sun notes, he waited long enough to ensure that his opposition would be futile: “His announcement came two days after Maryland’s Barbara A. Mikulski became the 34th senator to back the plan,” enough to sustain a veto. (The other Democratic opponents are New York’s Chuck Schumer, New Jersey’s Bob Menendez and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin. Manchin announced his opposition four days after Cardin.)

The deal is assured of “approval” despite overwhelming public opposition. A Pew poll released Tuesday finds only 21% of respondents favoring the deal, with a near-majority (49%) in opposition and 30% offering “no opinion.” In July, 33% approved and 45% disapproved. The poll’s oddest finding is that 30% report having heard “nothing at all” about the deal. That’s up from 21% two months ago, suggesting either sampling error or widespread dementia.

“It’s all redolent of ObamaCare’s 2010 passage—with no GOP votes—atop the Cornhusker Kickback for Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and the Louisiana Purchase for Sen. Mary Landrieu,” Henninger observes. “This time, though, the White House got Democrats’ assent in return for little more than liberal belief in the potential goodness of all mankind.” (Well, except Republicans.)

Democrats paid a big political price for ObamaCare in November 2010 and 2014, and Henninger wonders if the Iran deal will have a similar effect:

In 2016, Democrats are thought to be defending only two competitive [Senate] seats—Sen. Michael Bennet in Colorado and Harry Reid’s vacated Nevada seat. But the Iran deal’s nonsupport and high potential for risk could put into play retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s open Maryland seat or Washington state 24-year incumbent Sen. Patty Murray, who won in 2010 with 52.3%.

The less optimistic view would be that the ObamaCare-driven victories of 2010 and 2014 leave the Republicans with few realistic opportunities for gains in the Senate and House, respectively, next year. (Maryland last elected a Republican senator in 1980 and Washington in 1994.)

But what about the presidency? Prospective Democratic candidate Joe Biden and actual one Bernie Sanders are both strong supporters of the agreement. And it turns out inevitable nominee Hillary Clinton’s fingerprints are on it. The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Mrs. Clinton, “in her last months as secretary of state, helped open the door to a dramatic shift in U.S. policy toward Iran: an acceptance that Tehran would maintain at least some capacity to produce nuclear fuel.”

So Mrs. Clinton, like Hoyer and Blumenthal, is attempting to have it both ways, as the Washington Times reports:

While voicing support for the deal as the best option available, Mrs. Clinton gently distanced herself from Mr. Obama by promising to bring a firmer hand to American foreign policy.

“I will not hesitate to take military action if Iran attempts to obtain a nuclear weapon,” Mrs. Clinton said in a speech at the Brookings Institute, a liberal think tank in Washington.

Here’s the ultimate absurdity. Obama has repeatedly insisted that, as he put it in a speech last month, “the choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy,” meaning his deal, “or some form of war—maybe not tomorrow, maybe not three months from now, but soon.” Opponents rightly argued that is a false choice and they do not want war. Mrs. Clinton, by contrast, is (“gently”) promising the worst of both worlds—Obama’s deal and war!

Yesterday Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin were among those who addressed a Capitol Hill rally against the deal. (“The protest was pathetic,” a reader who attended wrote us. “A Geritol salesman could have made a fortune.”) London’s DailyMail quotes Palin as telling the crowd: “Only in an Orwellian Obama world full of sprinkly fairy dust blown from atop a unicorn as he’s peeking through a really pretty pink kaleidoscope would he ever see victory or safety of America or Israel in this treaty.”

That’s a Palinesque statement if ever there was one. Yet it makes more sense than many of the pronouncements from the administration’s “supporters.”

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