New York Sen. Charles Schumer, the third-highest ranking member of the Senate Democratic caucus, is emerging as the key figure in the congressional battle over the Iran deal.
Schumer, who has maintained a tight silence since the nuclear deal was announced two weeks ago, was the most frequent target of last week’s rally against the deal in Times Square. Activists say a “no” vote from Schumer will not be enough; they want him to rally others to override President Barack Obama’s anticipated veto. Supporters of the deal are also lobbying him, hard.
Yet the deal, by Schumer’s own standards, is a failure. In May, at a dinner for Agudath Israel, an Orthodox Jewish group that lobbies for religious concerns, Schumer laid out “five things we have to be very, very careful about” in the emerging deal. The Iran deal fails four of five.
1. Inspections–The U.S. and others must be able to inspect “anywhere, anytime…unannounced.” The deal specifically excludes U.S. inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) teams. Schumer said that “anywhere, anytime” inspections should be required even at new and previously unknown nuclear sites. Yet the deal allows Iran a minimum 24-day delay at those sites.
2. Sanctions–Sanctions should end when Iran meets a checklist, not on the first day. Schumer reminded his audience that he had opposed the interim Iran deal in Nov. 2013 because it offered sanctions relief up front. Though some of the sanctions in the Iran deal are indeed tied to Iranian compliance, some do end up front, with unfrozen assets expected to flow to Iran by the end of the year (if not sooner). And Iran has already been relieved of restrictions on ballistic missile research and development, as Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) has noted.
3. Snap-back–Sanctions must automatically “snap-back” if Iran violates the deal. There is a snap-back provision in the deal. The problem is that it is both too weak and too strong: it is too weak, in that it allows new investments in Iran to be “grandfathered” at the time sanctions are re-introduced; it is too strong, in that it effectively cancels the deal altogether, meaning it will almost never be used.
4. Potential Military Dimensions (PMDs)–“We need to know.” The Wall Street Journal has just revealed that Iran will not need to provide information about its past violations or the possible military dimensions of its nuclear program, according to the secret “side deals” that the IAEA concluded with Iran. Not only does that violate the White House’s promises, but it also makes inspections basically worthless.
5. Disposal of 10,000 kg of enriched uranium. This is the one point on which the Iran deal meets Schumer’s demands. It reduces Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile to 300 kg. The problem: it only does so for 15 years. There is no telling what happens in the long run.
Schumer ought to oppose the Iran deal for one additional reason: President Obama went to the UN Security Council to approve it before Congress could review it. Schumer boasted to the dinner that he “was one of the lead supporters of the Corker amendment. And that will give Congress the ability to look at whatever agreement comes up for 30 days, and either disapprove it or allow it to happen.” But Congress has been denied the ability to review the deal in a meaningful way. For that reason alone, Schumer should rally votes against the Iran deal.
The relevant portion of Schumer’s remarks can be found at 8:44 to 14:16 in the video embedded below.
Update: A correspondent notes via Twitter that Schumer also promised in December 2013 that “…Democrats and Republicans are gonna work to see that we don’t let up on these sanctions, as this agreement did, until Iran gives up not only all nuclear weapons, but all nuclear weapon capability, all enriched uranium, all the centrifuges, and all the heavy water reactors at Arak.” The reactor at Arak is to be replaced, but none of those other promises were fulfilled–and indeed, Schumer had dropped them by the time he made his five demands, above.