The unfolding drama of the Iran nuclear agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), seems to have a new twist or ramification almost every day. This will go on until Congress votes on the plan (presumably disapproving it), President Obama vetoes the congressional action, and Congress votes to override or sustain the veto. This has all the elements of a mystery/melodrama and everyone is reading tea leaves to predict the ultimate outcome.
Developments generally fall into one of two categories: disclosures about the nature and the administration’s selling of the JCPOA itself, and vote counting after the veto. The latter is being observed in two additional subcategories: the declared vote of members of Congress in general and the anticipated votes of Jewish legislators.
Obama offers the JCPOA as a zero-sum game. Your choice is either peace, the JCPOA, or war. There are no other alternatives.
There is the irresistible urge to compare Obama’s championing the agreement — with Secretary of State John Kerry in a strong supporting role — with that of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s 1938 appeasement of Hitler in Munich. While Chamberlain trumpeted that the agreement brought “peace for our time,” in reality it gave impetus to the advent of World War II.
Winston Churchill denounced the agreement in the House of Commons, saying, “This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigor, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.”
Churchill also famously said, “You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor, and you will have war.”
Those words are equally applicable to the JCPOA.
In many ways, life is imitating art. Are we watching a real House of Cards with President Obama in the role of Frank Underwood? Underwood had his legacy item which he wanted implemented by any means. Recently, we learned that Obama would resort to intimidation tactics of his own.
In announcing the JCPOA to the nation, Obama said he “will veto any legislation that prevents the full implementation of this deal.”
As more is learned about the implementation of the JCPOA, opposition to its approval grows. The key areas of concern are inspection/verification, especially after the existence of two secret agreements between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency on limits on inspection were disclosed (Iran’s self-inspection of the Parchin facility is particularly damning); the release of up to $150 billion dollars in currently frozen funds and sanctioned business which could be used to finance Iran’s terrorist proxies; and the potential spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East to counterbalance Iran, making the region and the world not safer as claimed.
Much of the opposition centers on the effect of the JCPOA on Israel’s security. Before and after the signing of the agreement, the chants of “Death to Israel” and “Death to America” could be heard in the streets of Tehran — and on the lips of Iran’s leadership. The eradication of the Jewish state is a priority of the Iranian ruling clique. As a result, Israel and many Jewish American organizations have mounted a major PR offensive to have Congress reject the agreement.
The opposition to the JCPOA in the United States has taken on an air of partisanship with the vast number of congressional Republicans opposing the deal. However, there is a developing schism among congressional Democrats on the issue, Jewish Democrats, and Democrats with large Jewish constituencies.
Since the president needs 34 votes in the Senate to sustain his veto of a bill disapproving the JCPOA, each Democratic senator’s vote is critical. Enter New York Senator Charles Schumer, the Number Three Democrat in the Senate who is positioned to be the successor to the current leader of the Senate Democrats, Harry Reid.
Schumer, a strong supporter of Israel, had been uncharacteristically quiet about his position on JCPOA. The speculation was that he would oppose in order to secure the top leadership position. Schumer watchers were surprised when he announced he was against the deal. Skeptics said he has a “get out of jail free” card and is not whipping fellow Democrats to vote, as he has declared.
Like Frank Underwood’s White House, the Obama administration lashed out against Schumer and threatened consequences. While the loss of Schumer’s vote on this legacy issue was significant, even more important was the symbolism (“optics” in political jargon) of losing a top-ranked Democrat.
So the Empire struck back, hinting retaliation against Schumer. White House press secretary Josh Earnest dismissed Schumer’s stance, saying it was “not particularly surprising to anybody here at the White House, even if it was disappointing,” suggesting Senate Democrats may want to “consider the voting record of those who want to lead the caucus.” Obama allies made similar comments.
White House wrath was not only visited on Schumer. Obama went after Republicans ad hominem, accusing them of “making common cause” with Iranian hardliners.”
Nor was White House wrath confined to American borders. In a CNN interview, Obama asserted Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s “interference” in American affairs is without precedent among foreign leaders.
For Obama and his minions, it is “my way or the highway.” It is obvious that he will use every device available to get his foreign policy legacy despite the eventual cost to the Middle East and the United States.
Five Jewish Democratic senators have bought into the Obama selling point that the JCPOA is the best agreement possible: Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Al Franken, Bernie Sanders, and Brian Schatz.
This Friday, Obama will try to sell the JCPOA to the American Jewish community in a webcast. Who will be speaking: a president who can allay fears based on hard facts, or Frank Underwood?