mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Corker-Menendez
Congress is Back, Baby
Features Icon
Features
show comments
  • wigwag

    It is worth noting the sad reality that the passage of Corker-Menendez is really little more than a symbolic victory; a Pyrrhic victory might be a more apt description.

    While Congress has reserved its right to weigh in on a matter of international consequence it really can’t do anything to inspire other nations to keep enforcing sanctions. It can prevent Obama from abandoning our sanctions regime but it can’t prevent other nations from trading with Iran.

    The only reason that sanctions were imposed on Iran in the first place is that most of the rest of the world preferred sanctions to what they thought the alternative was; a U.S. or Israeli military attack on Iran. With the military option off the table, at least until the next President takes office, the sanctions regime is sure to dissolve anyway. A decision by Congress to maintain American sanctions, even if it’s made, won’t amount to much.

    Without a credible threat of a military strike, Iran will be able to pretty much do whatever it wants whether an agreement is reached or not. Obama will never attack Iran and Iran knows it.

    An entirely conceivable result is nuclear proliferation in the Middle East with all the attendant mayhem and death that will likely flow from that.

    When a nuclear device explodes, it’s hard to guess what the venue might be, but given the animosity we’re witnessing in the Islamic world the most likely cities are populated by Sunnis or Shia.

    It will all be Obama’s fault.

    • Andrew Allison

      You don’t think that it’s maybe a bipartisan signal that Congress is unhappy about Obama’s over-reaching his authority? The sad fact is that the US cannot do anything to inspire other nations these days. Other than that, I think you’ve described the situation all too well.

      • wigwag

        I think you’re right; a bipartisan congressional majority finds Obama’s over reach objectionable. Unfortunately it’s heads Obama wins; tails Congress loses.

        Obama won’t threaten Iran militarily which means sanctions are destined to disappear and nuclear proliferation in the Middle East becomes entirely plausible.

        The consequences may be awful.

    • Dan Greene

      I must say that your paragraphs 1-3 are a pretty good summary of how things stand.

    • JR

      But isn’t what you described a reason to keep sanctions in place from the point of view of a lot of world players, not just the US? A LOT of people don’t want nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Not everyone shares the defeatist attitude that they should just roll over and let Tehran do whatever it wants to do. Shi’a are on the march but let’s not forget that Sunnis outnumber them 9 to 1.

    • rheddles

      You could add every President since James Earl Carter. Iran has been at war with us since 1979 and not one of them has treated it like an enemy.

    • f1b0nacc1

      While your analysis is solid, I am not sure that I agree with your conclusions. Obama is still in a position to stop any American response to Iranian nuclearization, but he really doesn’t have much capability to stop the Israelis, or for that matter other actors in the region ( Saudis ). In addition, he will not be in office indefinitely, and as 2016 rolls around his political room for maneuver will increasingly narrow. What the agreement absolute does do is prevent Obama from giving away the store, and providing the Iranians with automatic sanctions relief at no obvious cost. Since any deal will now have to pass congressional scrutiny, there is very little chance that the sort of giveaway that we saw mooted earlier this month will actually come to pass. That may be a tactical victory, but given the alternative, it is a victory still.
      As for the sanctions regime crumbling, I wouldn’t be so quick to pronounce it dead, though I may be eating my words in a few months. The French haven’t been willing to surrender (yet), and I wonder how much that will change if the whole deal falls apart. The Germans are in a precarious situation as well, and I suspect that once election time is over in the UK, whoever survives that mess will have a bit more spine. The Chinese and the Russians are another matter entirely, but realistically neither of them is going to be doing more business with the Iranians than they already do (they active aid in sanctions-busting even now), so their position is largely irrelevant.
      The Israelis are likely to be somewhat mollified at this point, and can do themselves a great deal of good by attempting to connect with the Europeans to convince them that the alternative to substantive reductions in the Iranian threat is an Israeli strike (hence addressing your reasonable concern about a ‘credible military threat’) that nobody really wants to see. I suspect (without evidence, to be sure) that Bibi is smart enough to at least attempt this, though Israeli diplomacy hardly has a solid track record with this sort of thing.
      So the situation remains murky and ugly, but perhaps this one day may be a modest win for the good guys. The clock is ticking still, and the Iranian regime is hardly growing stronger. Obama won’t be president forever, so if we can piece things together for another couple of years….perhaps…

  • Corlyss

    What really happened: It became obvious that opposition was increasing, not decreasing, as Obama tried to sell the deal, partly because Supreme Leader keeps taunting Obama. The Dems explained to our resident dim bulb that he’d gotten himself in a humiliating pickle and that the only way to save himself from another legacy failure was to let the Senate save him. Obama dropped the veto threat with the agreement to some cosmetic changes (but those weren’t “negotiated” so he can still claim he doesn’t negotiate with extremist Republicans). The expectation is the Supreme Leader will never go along with the results and will walk away. Now we’ll see just how truthful Obama was when he said if either side were to walk away, he wanted it to be Iran. Of course the open question has always been whether Iran wanted a deal or not. The Russians jumping the gun to sell Iran that sophisticated defensive missile system will prove interesting.

    • f1b0nacc1

      I think you have explained the situation well. Obama was about to lose this one badly, so he did the only thing he could do, surrender and pretend that he won. The Iranians may or may not go along with whatever changes are implemented as a result of this (I would hope that they do not, but if they do and can be held to it, all the better), but it is clear that the circumstances have changed for now, and Obama won’t be able to give away the store at least for now.
      Regarding the Russians, I think that they are offloading a system that will do fairly little (the S-300MPU isn’t the wonder-weapon that the press is making it out to be, the Israelis are well-positioned to cope with it), and picking up some much needed cash in the meantime. Ultimately though….it will all be interesting….

      • Corlyss

        Don’t you love State’s uncomprehending belated request for “clarification” as to why the Farsi version of the vaporware deal is so remarkably different from the English version? I laffed myself silly when I heard that one.

        • f1b0nacc1

          All of this idiocy would be a whole lot funnier if it were happening to someone else’s country….

          • Corlyss

            LOLOL Thanks for the laff.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Anytime my friend

  • ljgude

    While I agree with those who think that Iran’s progress toward nuclear weapons will be little changed by this legislative maneuvering it does represent a reassertion of Congress’s role in Foreign Policy. I remember feeling I had to accept Congress’s role in Foreign Policy in the days when Congress defunded support for the South Vietnamese and I did not like the result – even as an opponent of the war. I still believed Congress had a right to do that, period. The American people have made it plain that they like Obama by electing him twice, but they have made it equally clear that they have strong reservations about his policies by increasingly his congressional opposition in 2010, 2012 and 2014. So if Congress had failed to organize a successful challenge to the Executive Branch attempting to nullify Congress’s constitutionally mandated role of approving treaties, particularly on a highly controversial foreign policy issue, I would have felt that our institutions would be the loser. I think the political process actually worked exceedingly well – both parties managed to cooperate herding cats – and therefore I think this incident is actually a big deal and a much needed course correction.

  • Kevin

    Well done by Corker, and probably also McConnell for starting to recreate a more deliberative and productive Senate instead of just a partisan vipers’ nest. Both Menendez and Cardin deserve credit too for overcoming the temptations of partisan tribal affiliations to see a more effective committee and policy. It will take a long time to repair the damage Reid inflicted on the Senate.

    This certainly is far from the last word on the topic, and the chance of disaster is still too high, but cleaning out the Augean stables of this administration’s Mideast policy is job that can only be done one shovel-load at a time.

    • Frank Natoli

      Partisan vipers’ nest? Did you use that phrase when Reid was dictating what happened?

      • Kevin

        Probably not that exact phrase – but it is an apt description of what the Senate devolved into under his leadership. I’m glad to see the new Senate leadership seems to be moving away from his scorched-earth partisan tactics.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service