On Friday, both Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron warned against renewed Iran sanctions, Obama saying “Congress needs to show patience.” Theoretically, patience should be easy for these guys. They have refused to do a single thing for so many years now, it should be second nature to them.
“Why is it,” Obama asked, “that we would have to take actions that would jeopardize the possibility of getting a nuclear deal over the next 60 or 90 days?”
The president made himself very clear:
“I will veto a bill that comes to my desk and I will make this argument to the American people as to why I’m doing so.”
Leave it to Republicans to look at another war slipping through their fingers as a loss. We’ve barely out of Afghanistan, and even then, not really, and we’re dealing with ISIL in Iraq and Syria, and here comes the chance to provoke Iran to war.
Losing this chance is almost too much for John Boehner to bear, so he sent out a press release yesterday in response to President Obama’s threatened veto. What Boehner is telling his constituents and trying to sell to the rest of us is that Obama’s reticence on taking a hard line on Iran is actually a betrayal of Israel:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 16, 2015
Days Like This Are Why We Must Always Stand With Israel
WASHINGTON, DC – House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) issued the following statement today after President Obama threatened to veto bipartisan legislation to impose new sanctions on Iran:
“For decades, Republicans and Democrats have stood together to support Israel, and we have done so with days like this in mind. Iran is a state sponsor of terror with an abysmal human rights record, and yet President Obama is so committed to his negotiations with this regime that he is vowing to veto tougher sanctions. No White House threat will stop us from doing the right thing to protect the United States and its allies. The same can be said for the reckless actions taken today by the International Criminal Court. We will always support Israel’s right to defend itself, especially against terrorist organizations that use human shields and seek to maximize civilian casualties. Let this Congress’s enduring bipartisan support serve as a reminder that Israel is America’s friend, and Israel’s enemies are our enemies.”
So Iran has an abysmal human rights record. So do many American allies, including the notable example of Saudi Arabia. Why should we attack Iran and not Saudi Arabia?
And Boehner’s claim that “Israel’s enemies are our enemies” is certainly questionable. American foreign policy must not be guided by Israeli foreign policy. We should not have to pick up the tab for every war Israel decides to fight.
It is not as though, should negotiations fall through, Iran will instantly attack Israel. Shouldn’t we at least try to come to some sort of arrangement with Iran satisfactory to all?
Obama pointed out, helpfully you would have to say, that negotiations are continuing. Bloomberg reported Wednesday that,
Secretary of State John Kerry is in Geneva today meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif to push toward a comprehensive nuclear deal by the June 30 deadline, a cutoff that has now been extended a second and perhaps final time.
The point should be made here that these negotiations in Geneva have nothing to do with Congress. Congress acts like Obama is violating the separation of powers even as they try to undermine the president’s own constitutional powers.
Since Congress cannot directly intervene in those talks, they want to derail them by imposing sanctions. As Obama said, should sanctions be imposed, “The likelihood of the entire negotiations collapsing is very high.”
As Obama has pointed out, if talks fail, he can come to Congress for sanctions. As the president pointed out,
“My main message to Congress at this point is just hold your fire. Nobody around the world least of all the Iranians doubt my ability to get additional sanctions pass if these negotiations fail.”
But for Republicans, diplomacy equals failure. No use having a big stick if you don’t use it to whack somebody. So we get this equally mendacious load of hooey from House Majority Leader McCarthy (R-CA):
Both the Obama Administration’s concessionary approach to nuclear negotiations with Iran and its lack of an effective strategy to confront Iran’s continuing aggression and support for terrorism throughout the region provide ample reason for concern. As I have said before, I believe the Administration has fundamentally misread the nature and strategy of the regime in Tehran. Securing an acceptable agreement with Iran will be difficult, if not impossible, unless decision makers in Tehran face additional pressure from the United States and international community.
The sanctions in question, the Kirk-Menendez bill, was introduced in December 2013 and went nowhere. It is true that sanctions have bipartisan support, given the role of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ). The other sponsor is Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL).
Back in December, speaking at a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) promised “there will be a vote on the Kirk-Menendez bill, bipartisan sanction legislation that says, if Iran walks away from the table, sanctions will be reimposed; if Iran cheats regarding any deal that we enter to the Iranians, sanctions will be reimposed.”
Republicans have a second string to their bow, this one thanks to Republican Bob Corker (R-TN), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who is working on a bill to bypass any agreement Obama manages to conclude with Iran, saying “In the very near future there will be a markup on a bill that will give the Congress the ability to weigh in”:
It’s a bill that would allow Congress to have an up-or-down vote on any deal that’s finalized. There are two tracks. They are parallel. They are different. We’ll assess what route to take.
Republicans are determined to take a hard line with Iran and equally determined to derail any and all of President Obama’s accomplishments over the past six years, including especially his avoidance of war as a substitute for diplomacy. Having failed to delegitimize Obama’s presidency, they are determined to render him powerless, to essentially turn the President of the United States into a puppet figure for a reckless Congress in violation of the separation of powers mandated by the United States Constitution.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.