Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) announced late Thursday that he intends to vote against the Iran deal.
A furious White House reportedly told the Huffington Post, which broke the story in the midst of the Republican presidential debate, when it would receive the least attention.
It is easy to be skeptical about Schumer’s motives. He has been very reluctant to lead on the issue, and certainly delayed his decision long enough to allow the Obama administration to lobby for more votes, including that of Schumer’s junior New York colleague, Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand.
Yet what is truly remarkable about Schumer’s position on the Iran deal is the statement he published to explain his reasoning. In a simple, humble, yet elegant essay, Schumer completely negates President Barack Obama’s most powerful argument–namely, that there is no real alternative except war.
Not so, says Schumer. There is, in fact, a third option on Iran: “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.”
Schumer is very respectful, urging “all fair-minded Americans” to “acknowledge the President’s strong achievements in combatting and containing Iran.” Nevertheless, he destroys Obama’s arguments.
During the first ten years, inspections are not “anywhere, anytime.” The 24-day delay for inspections is a problem, despite assurances that we can still detect radioactive elements at that point, because there are “tools that go into building a bomb but don’t emit radioactivity.” And “snap-back” sanctions, he says, “seem cumbersome and difficult to use.”
After 10-15 years, Schumer notes, there is no guarantee that Iran will not pursue nuclear weapons. “If Iran’s true intent is to get a nuclear weapon, under this agreement, it must simply exercise patience,” he says. Then there are the “non-nuclear elements of the agreement,” he explains, which worry him most–especially Iran’s support for terror groups and its ballistic missile program.
There is also no reason to believe the regime will become moderate over time: “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, he says, to reject the Iran deal and push for new talks.
Schumer’s arguments could have a serious impact, especially because President Obama was so vicious in attacking critics of the deal in his speech at American University the day before.
Schumer is not making “common cause” with the Iranian regime. He is presenting, in a fair and convincing manner, the case for an alternative that Obama had mocked as a “fantasy.” It certainly is more realistic than Obama’s claims that chants of “Death to America!” in which the “Supreme Leader” joins and leads somehow do not represent Iran’s true intentions.
Many critics are speculating in social media that Schumer only felt free to oppose the deal once Democrats seemed to have enough votes–one-third of the House or Senate–to block Congress from overriding Obama’s veto.
Actually, Democrats seem genuinely scared that Sen. Schumer could have a decisive impact. But even if the veto is sustained, Schumer’s statement has undermined the Iran deal’s legitimacy.
Already, the deal has no legal standing, as Alan Dershowitz explains, because it ought to have been submitted to the Senate as a treaty. “Basic principles of democracy as well as our constitutional system of checks and balances would seem to require more than a presidential decision supported by one third of both the house and senate,” Dershowitz wrote in the USA Today. “An agreement, as distinguished from a treaty, does not have the force of law. It can simply be abrogated by any future president.”
Schumer’s statement provides a serious policy basis for Obama’s successor–Republican or Democrat–to reject the Iran deal. Congress can do so first–and, thanks to Schumer, still might.