In less than a month since the mid-July announcement of the Iran Deal, opponents have spent more than $11 million in blitz ads and lobbying campaigns attacking the deal as a win for Iran and loss for the U.S. and Israel. The sheer size of the dollar figure being spent as well as the forceful rhetoric bantered about by the anti-dealers represents political bullying at its worse. Led by the pro-Israel AIPAC and the ever-present apocalyptic voice of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, opponents will use the August Congressional recess to pressure lawmakers to vote for disapproval of the deal less they want to see their campaign dollars disappear.
Scant lawmakers have been willing to make their positions known ahead of the August recess. Whether it is because they want time to review the deal before making a decision, are unsure of their own political and personal position on the deal and Iran as a regional power or are just too damn afraid of either side, their continued silence and lack of leadership on the subject is stifling what should be a common sense sell to the American public. Iran is not a new threat. The use of international and unilateral sanctions has been a decade’s long policy that brought Iran to the negotiation table but failed to stop their enrichment programs. The question has never been “If Iran gets a bomb what do we do?” it has always been “When Iran gets a bomb what are we going to do?” and the answers to that question have always included a high-risk, military response.
Thankfully this week saw the emergence of a few brave voices.
On Monday, a petition signed by various former Israeli security chiefs and ex-generals was made public urging Netanyahu to accept the Iran Deal. It further emphasizes the need to restore good relations with the U.S. and Administration. And yesterday Democratic Senators Barbara Boxer (CA), Tim Kaine (VA) and Bill Nelson (FL) all declared their backing for the deal after attending a briefing that was held by foreign officials from the other nations involved in the negotiations. The message was clear. “These countries will not come together again in search for the best deal. This is the best deal,” according to a congressional aide.
Receiving support on the frontlines as well as abroad has allowed President Obama to use a more forceful approach in his public appeal for the deal, as evident by his speech today. Gone are the kid gloves and the tepid language. Knowing full well that his legacy will be defined by the success of this deal just as much as by the success of his signature healthcare law, Mr. Obama is taking his critics to task for their platitude to the Israeli right and shortsightedness when it comes to regional engagements. He hasn’t been afraid to equate their thirst for war with their similar missteps in going to war in Iraq.
Even if Congress votes for disapproval and somehow overcomes Mr. Obama’s veto (though I take this second scenario as seriously as I take the GOP’s unicorn fantasy deal), the rest of the world will leave us behind. They have already lifted United Nations and European Union economic sanctions. Nations are jockeying for access to Iranian oil and other natural resources. Our threats of new unilateral sanctions will not only fall on deft ears but will be met with derision and laughter. We will lose our standing as a serious regional actor in the Middle East because we will be viewed as the nation that fails to play fair and is always looking for a fight.
How about we give diplomacy a chance? It’s worked before, it can work again.