- - Thursday, July 16, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

President Obama’s dubious nuclear deal with Iran begins an all-out political war in Congress that will have a huge, perhaps decisive, impact in the 2016 presidential election.

Immediately after an agreement had been struck to lift economic sanctions on the Islamic republic, GOP leaders were denouncing Iran’s tissue-thin promises and plotting their strategy for the congressional battles to come.

And even House and Senate Democratic leaders were expressing grave reservations about the nuclear pact that, critics said, threatened the very survival of Israel and our other allies in the region.

Congress will have 60 days to review the deal after the White House sends the text of the agreement to Capitol Hill, and it will likely be submitted to a vote some time in September after lawmakers return from the August recess.

Mr. Obama certainly expects Republicans to mount an all-out offensive against a deal that made risky concessions to the Iranians. It calls for lifting the arms embargo within five years, dropping sanctions on its ballistic missiles in eight years, and lifting economic sanctions sooner than even Tehran had expected.

That’s when Republican leaders came out on the streets with both guns blazing.

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said Mr. Obama’s unquestioning defense of the pact, and its military concessions to Iran, showed he was “hopelessly disconnected from reality.”

But even the White House must have been surprised by the response from high-ranking Democratic leaders. New York Rep. Eliot Engel, ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and one of Iran’s chief critics, called the agreement “deeply troubling.”

Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, the third-ranking member of the Senate’s leadership, is described as deeply torn over the issue and his decision could sway the votes of many Democratic fence-sitters.

“I intend to go through this agreement with a fine-tooth comb, speak with administration officials, and hear from experts on all sides,” he said in a statement Wednesday.

“Supporting or opposing this agreement is not a decision to be made lightly, and I plan to carefully study the agreement before making an informed decision,” he said.

New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the former top-ranked Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said he was flat-out against the deal.

“We’re basically legitimizing Iran’s nuclear program,” he said.

Mr. Obama has said that if the Republican-run Congress sends him a resolution of disapproval, he will veto it, and earlier this week it seemed unlikely the GOP could muster the two-thirds vote to override his veto.

But if Mr. Schumer comes out against the agreement, he will sway enough Democrats to make that a possibility. With every Republican voting no, he would need only 12 Democrats to join him in upholding a vote of disapproval.

The House, with a large GOP majority, is considered more likely to follow suit.

Whatever happens in the forthcoming fight over the Iran nuclear deal, it is sure to become a major issue in the 2016 elections — one that would work in the GOP’s favor.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee and other Jewish organizations are planning to mount a massive lobbying campaign among swing Democrats on this one issue. That could spell deep trouble for Hillary Rodham Clinton, her party’s front-runner for the presidential nomination, who has given her full support to the Iran deal.

“I support this agreement because I believe it is the most effective path of all the alternatives available to the U.S. and our partners to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” she said this week.

But Mrs. Clinton may find that once the debate over the Iran deal gets underway, significant parts of her base, Jewish voters and swing Democrats, could turn against her.

While a majority may support the agreement now, that may not hold up for long when the dirty little details of the pact flood the TV airwaves.

And that’s going to work in the GOP’s favor and against Mrs. Clinton and the Democrats.

A Monmouth University poll released Tuesday found 55 percent of those surveyed said they didn’t trust Iran “at all” to begin to dismantle its nuclear program, curb its facilities and allow unimpeded inspections.

In February, 70 percent of Americans in a CBS poll said they considered Iran to be either an “enemy” or at least “unfriendly” toward the United States.

“That skepticism stands in stark contrast to the optimism expressed by President Obama announcing the deal Tuesday morning,” writes Washington Post polling analyst Scott Clement.

“Americans are clearly more skeptical about the meaning of a deal, and will likely be sympathetic to arguments that the deal does not do enough to stop Iran from producing nuclear weapons,” Mr. Clement writes.

Americans have a healthy dose of skepticism about the promises they hear from Washington and its political class, especially from Mr. Obama, who has lied to us one too many times, or at least embellished the facts.

Mr. Obama’s shaky deal with Tehran’s government, where truth is always a moving target, is going to take a beating in the months to come, in the House and Senate hearings, the floor debate, the TV ads and the presidential campaign debates that will soon descend upon us.

And while we’re experiencing all of the political claims and counter-claims, remember this: If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.

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