For the record, there’s no actual agreement with Iran to contain its nuclear program. There is only an arrangement, an understanding, a framework for negotiating the final pact that’s supposed to be achieved by June 30. But those details don’t matter. President Obama sees this as a done deal. Therefore, it will be a done deal.
Just as Obama did not allow missed deadlines to interfere with his goal of reaching a historic pre-agreement with Iran, he won’t let unpleasant differences and haggling over details impede the rush to conclude a final agreement he believes will transform the Middle East, ultimately taming the revolutionary fires that have burned so fiercely in the Islamic Republic of Iran for decades.
And what’s to prevent him?
Prominent Democrats as well as Republicans have been demanding a congressional vote on the deal. Obama insists it is an executive agreement, not a treaty, and therefore not subject to the Senate’s advice and consent endorsement.
Even if Congress does require a vote, Obama is framing the debate with the false choice of taking his deal or going to war with Iran. The Democratic Party’s powerful anti-war wing will eagerly embrace this line of thinking while most other Democrats will be reluctant to bolt from their president on an issue of such personal and historic importance to him. I’d be surprised if a veto-proof vote can be achieved against what looks like a bad agreement.
Once the deal is a reality, a future president, Democrat or Republican, will face his or her own agenda goals, problems and challenges and will be reluctant to refight an old battle unless forced to. Despite all the talk of inspections and the agreement guaranteeing a year’s advance notice of a nuclear breakout, Iran could find the will, strategy and means to sneak and cheat its way to a nuclear weapon. That’s what North Korea did after agreeing not to pursue the atomic bomb. Already, Tehran has cheated on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty it signed years ago.
“If Iran cheats, the world will know it,” Obama said. Maybe, but what would the world do? With the crucial exception of Israel, the military option is gone. Any discovery of cheating will bring only more talks from the West and more temporizing from Iran as the centrifuges spin.
Tehran will do what it has to do — for a while — to get out from under sanctions. It knows that once those coercive measures — which were enacted over Obama’s initial opposition and which were so effective in forcing Iran to talks — are gone, it would take a herculean effort to reassemble the international coalition to restore sanctions. Governments don’t like do-overs on tough decisions. Business operations and investment, once allowed, can’t be yanked back at the snap of a finger. The notion of a “snapback” of sanctions is a chimera.
So is Obama’s dream of enticing Iran from its revolutionary aspirations. Only days ago, a commander in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said that Israel’s destruction is “nonnegotiable.” Only days ago, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei responded to a crowd chanting “Death to America” by saying, “Of course, yes, death to America.” Today Iran, with its own forces, surrogates or Shiite militia, is pursuing its imperialistic aims in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, the Gaza Strip and beyond.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made a point of saying the agreement has no effect beyond the nuclear issue, meaning no change in Iran’s foreign relations. He also disputed the U.S. assertion that there would be no immediate end to sanctions. Obviously, that’s a detail to be hammered out before July. But such differences won’t stop Obama from reaching this deal — one that leaves Iran with an industrial nuclear infrastructure and as a nuclear threshold state. And that won’t stop Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon when it wants one.