Jeffrey Goldberg tries to talk sense into Iran hawks:
[A]t least in the short term, negotiations remain the best way to stop Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold. And U.S. President Barack Obama cannot be hamstrung in discussions by a group of senators who will pay no price for causing the collapse of negotiations between Iran and the P5 + 1, the five permanent members of the security council, plus Germany. “You have a large group of senators who are completely discounting the views of the administration, the actual negotiators, the rest of the P5 + 1, the intelligence community and almost every Iran analyst on earth,” said Colin Kahl, who, as a deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East during Obama’s first term, was responsible for preparing all of the options that the President says are still on the table.
If these negotiations were to collapse — and collapsing the negotiations is the goal of some of the most hawkish hawks — the most plausible alternative left to stop Iran would be a preventative military strike, either by the U.S. or by Israel (Arab states, which are agitating for an American strike, wouldn’t dare take on the risk of attacking Iran themselves). Such a strike might end in disaster. …
The whole column is worth a read. Another sound point:
[W]hy support negotiations? First: They just might work. I haven’t met many experts who put the chance of success at zero. Second: If the U.S. decides one day that it must destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities, it must do so with broad international support. The only way to build that support is to absolutely exhaust all other options. Which means pursuing, in a time-limited, sober-minded, but earnest and assiduous way, a peaceful settlement.
Beinart declares that “the sanctions bill is all about torpedoing a nuclear deal”:
An analysis of the legislation by longtime senate foreign relations committee staffer Edward Levine notes that to suspend the new sanctions indefinitely, President Obama must certify that “Iran will…dismantle its illicit nuclear infrastructure.” That’s pretty vague. But AIPAC’s summary of the bill helpfully explains that “Iran’s illicit nuclear infrastructure” includes “enrichment and reprocessing capabilities.”
Which would be fine, except that the Obama administration has already conceded that it can accept limited Iranian uranium enrichment so long as it’s not near weapons-grade and is closely monitored by inspectors. To suspend the sanctions, in other words, a final nuclear deal would have to include provisions that the governments of both Iran and the United States have already insisted it will not include.
It’s not surprising that the bill has set such a maximalist requirement, since the bill’s co-sponsors have previously expressed their opposition to allowing Iran to retain any enrichment capabilities. This is why no one should take seriously the claim of the bill’s supporters that they are interested in a diplomatic resolution to the nuclear issue. According to their own standard, they will only accept a deal with conditions that Iran has repeatedly stated that it will never accept, which means that no achievable final deal can avoid triggering the sanctions that they wish to impose. It is little wonder that Iran views the passage of a new sanctions bill as a deal-breaker. If the bill became law, it would mean that the U.S. had already reneged on commitments that it made in the interim agreement.
Kilgore wants anti-war Democrats to make some noise:
You will hear some Democrats and even a few Republicans claim they are trying to strengthen the adminstration’s hand in their negotiations, but that’s a shuck. The whole idea is to torpedo the talks because Bibi Netanyahu believes they are aimed at the wrong goal: keeping Iran from developing nuclear weapons, as opposed to Bibi’s demand that Iran lose its capability of developing nuclear weapons. If that means war, so be it. This time around, of course, those in the Democratic Party opposing a drift into war have the White House on their side, and the precedent of what happened when a lot of Democrats supported a similarly avoidable war with Iraq. But if antiwar Democrats don’t start making some real noise, the configuration of forces in Congress will continue to deteriorate, and we could be looking at a war foisted on an unwilling commander-in-chief.
And now the House is preparing to pass the Senate’s bill, which “would speed the process of sending a bill to Mr. Obama’s desk because the two chambers would not have to go through the process of reconciling their different bills.” It’s also intended pressure Reid into allowing a vote on the Senate bill. Larison zooms out:
When it came to the questions of bombing Libya and Syria, the House leadership was perfectly happy to defer to the executive, but when it comes to the conduct of diplomacy that is properly part of the executive’s responsibility they are only too ready to butt in and meddle where they aren’t wanted or needed. The one constant in this behavior is that most members of Congress find a way to take whichever side makes conflict with other states more likely. If the executive wants to launch a war on its own, Congress will stay out of the way, but if it wants to strike a deal that makes a future war less likely to happen they are suddenly very concerned to make their views known.
(Photo: Senator Cory Booker, who is sabotaging his own president’s diplomacy on Iran, by Kena Betancur/Getty Images.)