Don't Let GOP Unravel Iran Deal

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress, which was deliberately planned to embarrass the White House, was hatched by congressional Republicans -- partisan politics at its worst, because it also involved using Israel as a political football.

Iran has yet to see any sanctions relief, but Iran's breakout time has already moved from two or three months to a year because Iran has shipped 25,000 pounds of enriched uranium out of the country pursuant to the Iran deal. This means that for the first time in nearly a decade, Iran does not have enough enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon.

The mantra of this deal is not trust but verify; it is distrust and verify. If Iran cheats, and if we must re-impose sanctions, the last thing we want is to accuse Iran of a technical violation and have Iran come back and say that it overlooked our technical violations.

That's why the administration is correcting new visa rules to prevent new legislation from possibly violating the Iran deal. Arguing with Iran over this is not worth what we stand to gain from this deal.

Republicans will introduce legislation to scuttle the Iran deal under the guise of strengthening our hand. We must prepare for Iranian violations, but we must also oppose misguided legislation.

For example, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) wants to renew the Iran Sanctions Act, which expires in 2016, so that we have sanctions to snap back if necessary (so much for the argument we heard a few months ago that we would not be able to snap back sanctions).

The problem is that this legislation could be interpreted as violating our commitment not to impose new nuclear-related sanctions. The Iran deal contains no exceptions for conditional sanctions. Does anyone seriously doubt that Congress would not impose sanctions in less than 24 hours if necessary? We don't need legislation in place now to snap back sanctions later.

We will also hear about Iranian misconduct that does not violate the Iran deal but which Republicans will cite as reasons to scuttle the deal. As Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) pointed out last week, we need to "distinguish between the main objective of the agreement -- to prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb -- and our responsibilities to counter Iran's other nefarious activities."

The same mechanisms that were in place before the Iran deal are in place today to counter those other activities. The Obama administration is considering options regarding Iran's ballistic missile program.

Let's see if Iran continues to test ballistic missiles before judging the effectiveness of our response to Iranian misconduct that does not violate the Iran deal but that does violate international norms. We cannot allow Iran to use the Iran deal as a shield to protect itself from the consequences of misconduct not related to the deal. 

Spy vs. Spy. The Wall Street Journal also reported last week that the U.S. learned through spying on Israel that Netanyahu and his advisers leaked details on the Iran negotiations obtained through Israeli spying operations.

This is nothing new for the U.S. or Israel. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) called it "much to do about nothing." Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) defended spying on Israel in private, but condemned it in public.

The test of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship is not spying, which is common between allies, or whether the leaders of the two countries get together for tea or trade birthday presents. It's what happens despite the spying and despite any personal acrimony. Many of President Barack Obama's critics seem to think that we are still in middle school, reacting breathlessly to every slight, real or imagined, and worrying about who said what to whom behind so-and-so's back.

But among adults, the facts are clear: Under President Obama, we have unprecedented levels of military and intelligence cooperation between the U.S. and Israel, record levels of aid, full support for Iron Dome, and a 100 percent pro-Israel voting record at the U.N. And if all that happened despite spying and personal animosity, it's even more impressive. We are lucky that President Obama is not as thin-skinned as his political opponents.

President Obama has been in office for seven years, and none of the dire warnings about the U.S.-Israel relationship from our Republican friends has come to pass. Look for a massive case of cognitive dissonance in 2016 that, combined with the GOP's quixotic quadrennial quest to win more Jewish votes, will manifest itself in anti-Obama rhetoric more extreme than ever. My advice: Buy stock in Snopes.

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