Op-ed: Obama kneecaps Congress (again)

  • By Rich Lowry
  • Wednesday, July 22, 2015 3:17pm
  • Opinion

If only President Barack Obama were as hard-nosed and clever in undermining our adversaries as he is in kneecapping the U.S. Congress, the country’s strategic position might be transformed.

The Iran deal went to the United Nations Security Council for approval Monday, months before Congress will vote on it, and got unanimous approval. The U.N. vote doesn’t bind Congress, but it boxes it in and minimizes it — with malice aforethought.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress issued sharply worded statements about getting pre-empted by Turtle Bay, although the vast international machinery that has been set in motion won’t be deflected by a few sharp words from people under the misapprehension that they occupy a coequal branch of the American government. What are congressional hearings and the U.S. domestic political debate compared with the “international community”?

Shortly after the U.N. vote, President Obama urged Congress to get with the program: “There is broad international consensus around this issue,” he said, adding that his “assumption is that Congress will pay attention to that broad-based consensus.” In other words, follow the lead of the United Nations on a matter of utmost importance to the national interest of the United States.

Secretary of State John Kerry issued his own warning over the weekend about the dangers of going our own way: “If Congress says ‘no’ to this deal, then there will be no restraints on Iran. There will be no sanctions left. Our friends in this effort will desert us.”

And who’s responsible for that? The Obama administration cut a deal eviscerating the international sanctions regime and got it blessed by the U.N., then turns around and tells Congress it has no alternative but to assent because there will be no meaningful sanctions regime left regardless.

The agreement is written to favor business with Iran. It grandfathers in all commercial deals cut after the initial lifting of the sanctions, even in the unlikely event they are reimposed. Plus, Iran isn’t going to give back its windfall of tens of billions of dollars handed to it under the agreement.

Kerry over the weekend seemed offended by the notion that Congress should get to vote before everyone else locks the Iran agreement into place: “It is presumptuous of some people to say that France, Russia, China, Germany, Britain ought to do what the Congress tells them to do.” This is admirably internationalist, but Kerry is supposed to be the secretary of state of the United States, not a representative of the interests and prerogatives of its allies and adversaries.

The New York Times reports that during the negotiations, Kerry actually pushed to delay a U.N. vote until Congress reviewed the deal. How sporting of him. It must have been vestigial loyalty to the Congress he served in for several decades. Predictably, the Iranians balked (they’re not fools), and so did the Russians and the Europeans. Equally predictably, Kerry resorted to his solution to most every knotty negotiating problem — he caved.

Amazingly enough, the agreement with Iran doesn’t mention the U.S. Congress or its review of the deal, but specifically cites the Iranian Parliament and its role in approving the so-called additional protocol of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. At least someone is willing to stick up for Iran’s (wholly fraudulent) legislative branch.

It is President Obama’s curse that he doesn’t have a legislature as compliant as that of Iran’s supreme leader. The president clearly disdains Congress as a body that harbors several hundred Republicans and that can only complicate his grand legacy-defining initiatives. He didn’t want Congress to have a say at all over the Iran deal, but accepted the Corker bill that requires a near-impossible two-thirds vote to block it.

The administration’s message to opponents is that even that supermajority would be too little, too late. Submission is the only option.

Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com.

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