[guest post by Dana]
This morning, Sen. Chuck Schumer, who has been a long-time supporter of Israel, announced that he would not be supporting President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal:
If one thinks Iran will moderate, that contact with the West and a decrease in economic and political isolation will soften Iran’s hardline positions, one should approve the agreement. After all, a moderate Iran is less likely to exploit holes in the inspection and sanctions regime, is less likely to seek to become a threshold nuclear power after ten years, and is more likely to use its newfound resources for domestic growth, not international adventurism.
But if one feels that Iranian leaders will not moderate and their unstated but very real goal is to get relief from the onerous sanctions, while still retaining their nuclear ambitions and their ability to increase belligerent activities in the Middle East and elsewhere, then one should conclude that it would be better not to approve this agreement.
Admittedly, no one can tell with certainty which way Iran will go. It is true that Iran has a large number of people who want their government to decrease its isolation from the world and focus on economic advancement at home. But it is also true that this desire has been evident in Iran for thirty-five years, yet the Iranian leaders have held a tight and undiminished grip on Iran, successfully maintaining their brutal, theocratic dictatorship with little threat. Who’s to say this dictatorship will not prevail for another ten, twenty, or thirty years?
To me, the very real risk that Iran will not moderate and will, instead, use the agreement to pursue its nefarious goals is too great.
Therefore, I will vote to disapprove the agreement, not because I believe war is a viable or desirable option, nor to challenge the path of diplomacy. It is because I believe Iran will not change, and under this agreement it will be able to achieve its dual goals of eliminating sanctions while ultimately retaining its nuclear and non-nuclear power. Better to keep U.S. sanctions in place, strengthen them, enforce secondary sanctions on other nations, and pursue the hard-trodden path of diplomacy once more, difficult as it may be.
For all of these reasons, I believe the vote to disapprove is the right one.
Reaction from Democrats was swift and harsh:
White House allies angrily struck back after Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced his opposition to President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal late Thursday, suggesting Schumer could lose support as Democratic leader in the Senate in 2016 if he helps block the accord.
The forceful response from some of Obama’s former top-ranking aides was the latest example of the president’s take-no-prisoners approach to ensuring the survival of a pact that he views as a historic, legacy-defining achievement that could help remake the security situation in the turbulent Middle East…
“Senator Schumer siding with the GOP against Obama, [Hillary] Clinton and most Democrats will make it hard for him to lead the Dems in ’16,” Dan Pfeiffer, who served as Obama’s senior political adviser until leaving in February, wrote on Twitter. “The base won’t support a leader who thought Obamacare was a mistake and wants War with Iran.”
Schumer indicated that he would be working to get other senators to join him in opposing the deal:
“There are some who believe that I can force my colleagues to vote my way,” Schumer said. “While I will certainly share my view and try to persuade them that the vote to disapprove is the right one, in my experience with matters of conscience and great consequence like this, each member ultimately comes to their own conclusion.”
But knowing that nothing in politics is quite what it appears to be, we are warned not to be fooled by Schumer’s position given that he wants to have it both ways. Both ways, and at little cost to him:
Does the incoming Senate Democratic leader really want to take the blame for actively helping Republicans sink Obama’s signature foreign policy achievement, one that likely Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has already leaned into supporting? Doubtful. By voting No — while doing little to prevent the deal from going forward — Schumer can vote his conscience while not seriously undermining his position as Democratic leader.
Knowing how hard Schumer has worked to position himself as Harry Reid’s likely successor, do you really think he would jeopardize that opportunity for this?
Certainly Schumer weighed out the risk of opposing President Obama. And certainly he knows that public sentiment is in his favor given that the more Americans find out about the deal, the more they oppose it.
Meanwhile, President and Obama and Mitch McConnell, realizing the gravity of the situation, jumped into action to shore up their positions by getting into a twitter war. Because that’s how grown men in charge of running the most powerful nation on earth behave when working to protect and defend the citizenry.