Why Obama should welcome a ‘No’ vote on the Iran deal
I don’t know any proponent of President Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal who doesn’t believe the deal can be improved. They would love the inspections regime, for example, to be closer to the “anytime, anywhere” ideal, so that we could be sure to catch the world’s best cheaters when they cheat.
And they would love to close those tricky loopholes, so we can ensure that the “snap-back sanctions” really do snap back and we can impose real penalties for cheating. Otherwise, what’s the point? If it’s so hard to catch the Iranians cheating, and it’s so hard to punish them when they do, can we really muster much love for this deal?
The truth is, there’s not much love for this deal even among my friends who support it. Rather, there’s grudging acceptance that, even with all its flaws, the deal is better than any alternative in terms of stopping, or at least slowing, the mullahs from getting their nuclear bomb.
It’s important not to demonize the proponents of the deal, who also want what’s best for America, Israel and the world. I may see things differently than they do, but I can’t impugn their motives. They think this is the best deal we can get; I think we can do a lot better.
President Obama is no fool. Deep down, he probably knows his deal is full of loopholes and could be improved. And he knows he’ll need more leverage if he wants to improve it. That’s why I think he shouldn’t be afraid of getting a rejection by Congress. What better leverage than the world’s most powerful and independent legislature saying no and asking for a better deal?
“Hey, don’t kill the messenger,” Obama would tell the mullahs. “Our Congress plays a very important role. They overrode my veto and are now asking for a better deal. Here is their list — let’s talk.”
I know, that’s easier said than done. A rejection in Congress would certainly create a big mess. As Robert Satloff of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy writes, it would lead to a “murky” situation — not necessarily worse, but murky.
But you know what? Murky is what the Iranians do. It’s their comfort zone. Nothing they do is clean and simple. Their archetype is not the “Say what I mean, mean what I say” American ideal, but the merchant in the souk who, when negotiating, never says what he means or means what he says.
Why are we so sure the Iranians would blow up the agreement if Congress rejects the deal and things do, indeed, go murky? Why are we so sure they would rush to build a nuclear bomb and forfeit all the international goodwill and legitimacy that this deal provides?
The Iranians are not stupid. They can count. They know that a $23 trillion economy that controls so much of the world’s financial system can do plenty of damage to their sanctions relief. Why jeopardize their $150 billion payday now that they’re so close to a dream deal that will make their terror-sponsoring regime a legitimate international player?
As far as reopening negotiations after a deal has been “finalized,” my Iranian friends tell me this is a mullah specialty. They wait until you’re thoroughly invested in the deal … and then they pounce. That’s exactly what they did in Vienna. As soon as the Americans thought they had a deal, the Iranians ambushed them with some last-minute demands.
So, what’s wrong with giving them a taste of their own medicine? It might even earn us a little respect: Hey, those Americans are not so naive, after all.
Instead of playing so tough with Congress and with his critics who want a better deal, President Obama should direct his toughness toward enemies who routinely and brazenly shout, “Death to America.” We must stop acting as if we are the weaker party with no leverage.
I know — it’s messy. It would be so much easier to just approve the deal and move forward. That’s the American way. We love closure. We love neatness.
This deal, however, is anything but neat, and it’s anything but over. Our dance with the Iranian mullahs has been a long and messy one. A rejection by the American Congress would continue this dance — only now, it would make clear who the lead dancer is.
David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.