Here’s everything you need to know about the nuclear non-proliferation treaty with Iran, negotiated by the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany (the P5+1): it’s getting past Congress no matter what. Here’s the rest of the story: Republicans will do everything in their power to embarrass our president (as they have since January 20, 2009), so you can also expect a motion of disapproval to pass the House and Senate when they get back to town early next month.
Here’s what you need to ignore: the tsunami of political attack-style ads that will saturate the airwaves in any state where your Senator or Representative has expressed taking a sober view of the pros and cons of this deal before casting their vote. These people will be called weak and enemies of peace — who are inviting disaster and hastening Armageddon. Except, of course — that’s completely bass ackwards.
Beware the fundamentalist Christians in Congress (who all believe Christ’s second coming will be triggered by a war in Israel) every bit as much as the Mullahs in Iran (who all believe America is bloodthirsty and bent on setting the world on fire).
So here’s your choice: you can listen to the nonpartisan Arms Control Association, who just released a statement which said “the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is a strong, long-term, and verifiable agreement that will be a net-plus for international nuclear nonproliferation efforts.” Or, you can listen to Steve King (R-IA), who thinks the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges means he can marry his lawnmower. “I don’t understand how Jews in America can be Democrats first and Jewish second and support Israel.” Easy, Stevie — the JCPOA prevents Iran from getting a nuclear weapon — which would be bad.
Here’s why it’s confusing: people opposed to the JCPOA have no problem lying about what’s actually in the deal. Or worse, they’re engaging in the worst kind of hyperbole. According to Mark Levin, “Barack Obama has now planted the seeds of World War III.” Okay, and allowing Iran unfettered access to weapons-grade plutonium is what? A pathway to peace? To make a bomb, the fissile isotope U-235 needs to be enriched to 90% — and under this deal, Iran’s uranium stockpile will be reduced by 98%, and enrichment levels are capped at 3.67%. We need to deal with facts, not hype.
There have been U.S. economic and trade sanctions on Iran in place since 1978, so any member of Congress advocating keeping them — or adding additional sanctions (as a method of forcing compliance) — is simply ignorant. The only reason Iran came to heel this time around was the Obama Administration’s diplomatic efforts. The president lobbied the UN Security Council’s four other permanent members, plus Germany (the P5+1), who agreed to freeze Iran’s assets and create additional trading sanctions. The result was crippling to Iran’s economy.
If your Senator or Representative wants to talk tough about sanctions — fine — but they’re delusional if they think U.S. sanctions alone are going to sway the Iranians, or stop other nations from trading (and buying oil) with Iran, now that an international treaty has been negotiated and the U.N. Security Council has voted 15-0 in favor of the agreement.
Here’s what happens next: the Democrats are going to try and mount a filibuster of the Republican’s resolution of disapproval, but it might be too steep a hill for them to climb. There are 15 undecided votes in the Democratic caucus — and Harry Reid would have to wrangle 12 of them to keep the vote for a motion of disapproval off the Senate calendar.
The more likely road to denying warmongers a say in this discussion — and the one that will keep this “nontroversy” in the headlines — is a presidential veto. There are more than enough votes to sustain President Obama’s veto — Republicans know this — but as I said at the top, this is nothing more than a political lynching of the president’s legacy.
Republicans vowed to blockade any progress the new president proposed the night of his inauguration. Then they vowed “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Opposition to this deal has more to do with being hawkish — and supporting the American war machine — than anything that’s actually in the agreement. Tarring and feathering the president in front of the international community is just icing on the cake.
Conservatives often say a president needs to listen to military leaders before making a decision. Fine — three dozen retired generals and admirals released an open letter to the president praising the JCPOA, saying they “support the agreement as the most effective means currently available to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. […] The international deal blocks the potential pathways to a nuclear bomb, provides for intrusive verification, and strengthens American national security. […] For these reasons, for the security of our Nation, we call upon Congress and the American people to support this agreement.”
Here’s the end game: former Senator Joe Lieberman’s “United Against Nuclear Iran” group (among others) is set to spend millions upon millions of dollars on opposition ads targeting the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. If you’re currently represented by Senators Michael Bennet, Cory Booker, Richard Blumenthal, Tom Carper, Bob Casey, Maria Cantwell, Ben Cardin, Chris Coons, Heidi Heitkamp, Gary Peters, Joe Manchin, Jeff Merkley, Barbara Mikulski, Mark Warner or Ron Wyden — you’re about to get an earful of bold-faced lies, asking you to call your member of Congress.
I hope you do call. And I hope you tell them the truth. The last thing this country needs is another campaign of lies leading to yet another pointless war in the mideast. I understand I may be preaching to the choir here — but right now you really need to sing as loudly as you can.