A decision on the nuclear agreement with Iran looms closer. I have been trying to track progress or lack thereof via the Washington Post. It is about more than the deal itself. Our political decision making processes are exposed and the picture isn’t pretty.
But start with the merits of deal itself. On Sunday, August 23, 2015, in a Washington Post piece Brent Scowcroft described the Iran nuclear agreement as “an epochal moment” on par with President Nixon’s opening to China and Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush dealings with the Soviet Union. (For the record Scowcroft was national security advisor to President Ford and to President George H.W. Bush.) Scowcroft says: “There is no more credible expert on nuclear weapons then Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who led the technical negotiating team.” He notes, as we all know, that negotiated agreements are “compromises by definition”. Most importantly, Scowcroft says “There is no credible alternative were Congress to prevent U.S. participation in the nuclear deal.”
So Congress faces this “momentous decision”. As far as I can tell the Republicans have basically abdicated any responsibility to make a wise decision for the country and have left it up to the Democrats. The way the mechanism works is that all Republicans will vote to disapprove the deal, President Obama will then veto that disapproval and Congress will have to get a two thirds majority to override the veto. All Republicans can safely vote against it without really having to consider the real merits of the agreement. Walter Pincus (August 17, 2015) describes the Republican position as an “alternate reality”. You really have to ask, given that there are 246 Republicans in the House, if you could expect unanimous opposition if these people were trying to make a decision based upon the merits of the deal. The partisanship seems so overwhelming that the judgment of a majority of our Congressional representatives is so distorted that it threatens the well-being of the country.
But whatever you think of the Republican position, the end result is that the relevant discussion is taking place among Democrats. Their votes will deny or sustain the President’s veto. Democrats are divided but they are having an actual discussion. It appears at this time the veto will be sustained. The situation is detailed in the Washington Post (August 20, 2015). As Pincus notes: “If Congress votes against the deal and overrides an Obama veto, the entire agreement collapses.” And to close with Scowcroft, “there is no credible alternative…”
All this brings up another issue–the money and the sources of that money that are pushing to defeat the Iran deal. According to the Post again (August 13, 2015), “On one side of the fight are Sheldon Adelson, Paul Singer and Haim Saban, whose foundations have given a total of $13 million since 2010 to advocacy groups battling the Iran nuclear deal in Congress… On the other are George Soros and a smattering of smaller donors. Soros and his foundation chipped in at least $68,500, a comparatively meager sum, over the same time period to lobbying groups who want the controversial pact to be adopted.” The caption under the photo of Adelson describes his as a “GOP king-maker”. The big-money influence seems inevitable given the way the current political system works, but again you certainly have to wonder how representative the decisions by Congress really are.