In defending the Iran nuclear deal to Congress, President Obama and his staff argued repeatedly that rejection would leave America in dire isolation at the United Nations. Obama can now relax. Having used slash-and-burn executive tactics to roll right over a dissenting majority in Congress and a disapproving American public, he can look forward to celebrating this deal with those more likely to applaud it, when he speaks September 28 at the 70th annual General Assembly in New York.
For the rest of us, Obama’s horror of isolation at the U.N. should be cause not for comfort, but for growing alarm. We are seeing here an inversion of America’s most vital role in global diplomacy, which in healthier times has been not to please and appease the despot-ridden and morally myopic U.N., but to provide it a functional compass and guide. There is a more accurate phrase for this “isolation” that Obama so fears. It used to be called “leadership of the free world.”
Under President Obama, America has offered precious little in the way of such leadership. In Libya, in 2011, the United States led from behind via the U.N., and then abandoned the project, leaving Libya to collapse into terror-wracked chaos. In Syria, in 2013, Obama erased his red line in deference to Russia, which went on to annex Crimea the following year and is still chewing away at the rest of Ukraine, with an eye on the Baltics. Since Obama took office, the United States has borne passive witness to Iran’s brutal crushing of massive protests in 2009 and done nothing of sufficient substance to deter North Korea’s burgeoning nuclear weapons program—its three nuclear tests, two of which happened on Obama’s watch, may soon be followed by a fourth.
About the only thing on which Obama has led has been the Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. This deal is a disaster, negotiated with Iran by six world powers, the five veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council (the United States, France, Britain, Russia, China) plus Germany. Two of America’s negotiating partners—Russia and China—have themselves served as major conduits of expertise and materiel to Iran’s nuclear program and are run by nuclear-armed regimes so ruthless that they are likely the last countries Iran would dare threaten. The resulting JCPOA ignores Iran’s state-sponsored terrorism, human rights abuses, and messianic ambitions to obliterate Israel and bring “Death to America.” This deal comes laden with so many U.S.-led concessions—from hundreds of billions’ worth of sanctions relief to secret side deals to sunset clauses—it effectively clears the way for Iran, sooner or later, to become a nuclear-armed state.
That’s what’s been troubling Congress. And as member states of the strategically rudderless U.N. began lining up to do business with oil-rich Iran, the Obama administration busied itself telling lawmakers not to spoil the fun. On August 5, Obama admonished that if Congress killed the deal, America would lose its credibility as “a leader of diplomacy” and “the anchor of the international system.”
U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power elaborated on this theme in an August 26 piece for Politico, warning that if Congress were to spike the Iran deal, “we would instantly isolate ourselves from the countries that spent nearly two years working with American negotiators to hammer out its toughest provisions.” Power added that congressional rejection would “project globally an America that is internally divided, unreliable and dismissive of the views of those with whom we built Iran’s sanctions architecture in the first place.” She wrote that America would lose leverage at the U.N., unable to muster coalitions on other fronts, perhaps even incapable of persuading the Security Council to notch up U.N. sanctions on North Korea following its next nuclear test.
This was beyond disingenuous. If U.N. players saw the Iran agreement as a done deal, the culprit was the Obama administration itself. It was the administration that tried to outflank Congress by rushing the deal to the Security Council less than a week after it was announced in Vienna, and just 1 day into the 60-day review period guaranteed to Congress by law. It was Ambassador Power herself who, without waiting for Congress, cast 1 of the 15 votes with which the Security Council on July 20 unanimously approved a resolution enshrining the deal at the U.N. It was the State Department’s chief negotiator with Iran, undersecretary Wendy Sherman, who justified these tactics, even before the Security Council vote, in her comment to the press that it would have been “difficult” for America to tell its negotiating partners eager to go to the U.N., “Well, excuse me, the world, you should wait for the United States Congress.”
Senator Tom Cotton is blasting Senate Democrats from failing to block the Iran nuclear deal.
“I am deeply disappointed by Senate Democrats' decision to block a vote on the Iran nuclear deal. I proposed an amendment to Corker-Cardin that would have guaranteed a vote, but it was rejected by Democrats because their goal all along was to deny Congress any vote or say on this deal. That's one reason why I ultimately voted against Corker-Cardin," reads Cotton's statement to the press.
Last Friday, I moderated a panel at Hudson Institute titled, “Why is Qassem Suleimani Smiling? The Iran Deal and Sanctions Relief for Terrorists.” (See video of the event here.) The panel’s focus was not speculative—for instance, how the regime might spend the signing bonus promised by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or how the deal might moderate the regime, or reconfigure Iranian society—but rather looked at the regime’s actual behavior over the last 36 years. In particular, the panel discussed Iran’s acts of terror against Americans, especially servicemen and women.
A week ago, I suggested that—contrary to conventional wisdom and perhaps even to first-blush common sense—the GOP field might benefit from one or more new candidates. One of the well-qualified dark horses I mentioned was third-term Rep. Mike Pompeo from Wichita, Kansas.
The New York Post reports that Senator Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has expanded on his rationale for opposing the White House's Iran Deal:
In his most extensive comments since announcing his opposition to the agreement last week, Schumer questioned whether the inspections could be effective, and laid out a litany of reasons why he thinks the deal won’t hold.
“There are parts to bomb making that don’t involve nuclear isotopes. Even if you find nuclear isotopes [through inspections], you don’t know exactly what they are doing,” he said.
Chuck Schumer is coming under fire from President Obama's former top political adviser, David Axelrod. The former advisor is using Twitter to question Schumer's decision to oppose Obama's nuclear deal with Iran.
"Facts are facts, and politics is politics. Schumer made a decision based on politics, not fact," Axelrod wrote in a tweet.
When Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that he would vote against the nuclear deal with Iran, he didn’t just take a position -- he rejected every major argument President Obama has made on the agreement’s behalf. Schumer argues this is not a deal that prevents Iran from getting nuclear weapons, but one that brings it to the threshold of nuclear weapons capability. He states that its verification and enforcement mechanisms are flawed. Finally, he points out it provides Iran with tens of billions of dollars it could spend on subsidizing terrorism and other violent pursuits.
President Obama said that Iranian hardliners are "making common cause with the Republican caucus" in a speech today in Washington, D.C.:
"In fact, it's those hardliners who are most comfortable with the status quo. It's those hardliners chanting 'Death to America' who have been most opposed to the deal. They're making common cause with the Republican caucus," said the president of the United States.