Republicans in Congress are ramping up their rhetoric against the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) negotiated by President Obama. The president wants this deal badly enough to once again play fast and loose with the constitutional limits on executive power. The Republicans want to snuff the deal badly enough to say anything, no matter how ridiculous, to incite opposition.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) told Stuart Varney Thursday: "This is a treaty. The Constitution requires that a treaty have two thirds of those present concur, in the Senate, on ratification."
He is right about that. The Constitution doesn't say anything about "executive agreements." Any international agreement negotiated by the president is either a treaty or unconstitutional. But then, Gohmert went on to make this ridiculous statement:
"There is a holocaust looming and we have an obligation to stop it and not play politics like this does. We can stop this if we call it what it is, call it a treaty and quit playing political games because Israel is at stake. They're the Little Satan, but we are the Great Satan and this nation is at existential risk."
Rep. Steven King (R-IA) told Neil Cavuto yesterday the Iran nuclear deal represented "a seminal moment in the history of the world," saying it "means to [sic] tens of millions of lives down the road."
Yes, we do need to stop playing political games. To suggest that even a nuclear-armed Iran threatens the existence of the United States is so ridiculous on its face it doesn't warrant refutation. That a nuclear-armed Iran poses an existential threat to Israel, which the Obama administration confirmed has hundreds of nuclear weapons itself, is almost as laughable.
When push comes to shove, most Republicans admit that they do, indeed, want some sort of agreement with Iran. Their chief criticism of this deal is it is too one-side in favor of the Iranians. They say the economic sanctions on Iran are lifted too quickly and the inspection requirements are not stringent enough to ensure Iran doesn't cheat.
Those points are arguable. But they don't acknowledge the elephant in the room in terms of what Iran gave up: its status as an independent nation.
When the thirteen American colonies declared their independence from Great Britain, the Declaration said, "as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do."
The premise of this nuclear deal is that Iran cannot be trusted with at least one of these powers, to levy War. It may arm itself conventionally, but the prohibition of nuclear weapons leaves it defenseless against those nations that have them. It does to Iran as a nation precisely what Republicans say gun bans do to individuals.
This is all based on the presupposition that Iran is an inferior nation. It is one thing for American or European politicians to make this claim and their constituents to believe it. It is quite another for Iran to acquiesce to an agreement that assumes it is true. Why would they agree to this?
In addition, the Iranians have also agreed to enrich uranium no further than 5 percent, meaning they will not enrich uranium to the 20 percent level needed to manufacture medical isotopes. Nuclear weapons require 90 percent enrichment. Why would they agree to this as well?
There is only one answer. They are succumbing to over a decade of non-stop saber-rattling, threats of regime change and crippling economic sanctions by the only real existential threat among the parties to this agreement: the United States government.
At the end of the day, Iran has not invaded another nation in over two hundred years. The United States does so routinely and has troops massed at Iran's border on all sides. Iran emphatically denies it is developing a nuclear weapon, which is confirmed by every U.S. intelligence report and every IAEA inspection. The United States acknowledges it has over 30,000 nuclear weapons and its politicians routinely threaten to use them preemptively against Iran.
History will judge Iran's authoritarian theocracy harshly in terms of its civil rights abuses, oppression of women and denial of basic human freedoms. In terms of how it treats its own citizens, the Iranian regime is indefensible.
But in terms of its relationship to other nations, this nuclear deal represents Iran being forced to subjugate itself just as Germany did after the World Wars, even though they haven't been involved in any such conflict. Iran is literally kneeling before the West in the face of credible threats to destroy them if they do not.
How will history judge us for this?