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A Bad Deal

Aug 4, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 44 • By REUEL MARC GERECHT
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Congress could try again to push more sanctions. There is, however, near zero chance of that before the new November deadline for the Joint Plan of Action. Even a staunch Iranian-skeptic and sanctions-backer like Democratic senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey got spooked when the administration and its left-wing allies led a warmongering charge against Democratic senators who wanted new sanctions to be triggered by a failure of the nuclear talks. That will unquestionably be the White House’s game plan if Khamenei decides to let the administration surrender with some face. Nonetheless, Congress can and should harass the administration if it continues to go south in these nuclear talks. It might make a difference. And any agreement could well fall apart after it’s signed: The Iranians may find even a sweetheart deal difficult to accept over time. 

Republicans and Democrats have so far assiduously avoided the great debate: Are they willing to support preemptive military strikes against the Iranian regime’s nuclear sites? This debate would have surely raged sooner had President Obama not neutralized much of the left by his assertion that he would not tolerate a nuclear Iran. Many on the left who have ardently backed nuclear negotiations would have been arguing that nuclear weapons in Khamenei’s hands are less dangerous than American preemption. Both Democrats and Republicans have wanted to believe that sanctions might solve this conundrum, that economic warfare could be the answer to our post-Iraq and post-Afghanistan angst. But the modern Middle East hasn’t been kind to those who see economics as the primary driver of men. 

This debate may heat up come November. It depends on Khamenei. Can he accept victory slowly delivered? Just a few thousand centrifuges and just a few years separate him from a rather impressive triumph over the West. He recently enjoyed his seventy-fifth birthday. Old men can go either way. They can see a long way out; they can also be acutely impatient given their onrushing mortality. With Khamenei, it’s best to bet on the scorpion: President Obama has become such a tempting target. 

 

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