Wednesday, August 05, 2015

The definition of chutzpah

A few step-back observations about national "debate" over the Iran deal:

1. It is the definition of chutzpah to hype the danger of a nuclear Iran for years and decades, then complain that the deal only addresses Iran's nuclear program. It's also the definition of warmongering. You can't negotiate away all your differences with an adversary at once.

2. In the same vein, it's disingenuous to reject the deal on grounds that the removal of sanctions designed to induce such a deal will fund other activities we don't like.

3. We can pretend that there's a substantive debate about the merits of the deal, but that's obviously not what's going on.  The evidence of that is in the terms in which prominent Democrats declare their support.  According to Huffington Post's Sam Stein, Senators Kaine, Warren and Nelson felt empowered to support the deal after a meeting with ambassadors from the P5 + 1 group that negotiated with the U.S. against Iran:
...the conversation lingered largely on a hypothetical: What would happen if the agreement fell through?

According to one Senate Democratic aide, the ambassadors were emphatic that this would amount to a forfeiture of a successful diplomatic endgame.

"They said international sanctions were aimed at getting Iran to the table, and if we fritter away this chance, you couldn’t keep that coalition of support," said the aide. "Frankly, there are a lot of countries out there that want to buy Iranian oil."....

Said another aide, summarizing what was relayed at the meeting: "These countries will not come together again in search for the best deal. This is the best deal."

The Obama administration has made similar arguments in its lobbying campaign to support the Iran deal. But there was a different type of persuasion, as it came from other P5+1 members, according to another Democratic Senate aide. For lawmakers, it was a veritable from-the-horse's-mouth confirmation of their theories and suspicions. Boxer specifically cited the presentation in announcing that she would support the deal.

“It was very important to hear from them that they believed if we walked away, it would play right into the hands of the hard-liners in Iran, Iran would build a nuclear weapon, they’d have lots of money from everybody else but America, and it’d be a very dangerous situation,” she told the Los Angeles Times.
You don't have to be a sagacious senator steeped in the nuances of U.S. foreign policy to recognize that the sanctions regime will collapse if the U.S. Congress scuttles the deal negotiated by the U.S. administration and six allied world powers.  The ambassadors' gift was cover -- an authority to hold up against Netanyahu's hysteria and AIPAC knee-jerk followership. Which illustrates...

4. Democrats on the fence are simply calibrating the political danger of bucking AIPAC. Perhaps a few are so emotionally invested in Israel-right-or-wrong advocacy that they believe the deal is a bad one or fear being blamed -- as AIPAC has threatened they will -- if Iran develops a nuclear weapon. With that exception, it's basically inconceivable that a Democrat could oppose this deal on the merits. Even if you think the deal is flawed, per above, it's obvious that the sanctions regime will collapse if it's rejected and that Iran will be in a better position to develop nuclear weapons if it so desires.

5. Given our political realities, Obama is perhaps doing all he can to loosen the grip of the Israel lobby on U.S. policy -- an unfortunate confluence of billionaire cash and evangelical nuttiness. He is helped in this by Netanyahu, whose conduct and comments have been sawing away steadily at the "unbreakable bonds" between Israel and the U.S. that Obama and all other national U.S. politicians are constrained to endlessly affirm.  But when you step back, the absurdity of the conditions under which the administration has to forge U.S. policy is obvious. For example, here is part of an account from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency's Ron Kampeas of his meeting with "an array of Jewish leaders" yesterday evening:
Obama was especially frustrated that AIPAC allowed his top officials just 30 minutes to explain their side of the deal last week, in an encounter that included no questions from the audience.

AIPAC officials have said that the White House requested the meeting at the last minute with Denis McDonough, his chief of staff; Wendy Sherman, the top U.S. negotiator at the Iran talks, and Adam Szubin, Obama’s top sanctions enforcement official. More than 30 minutes would have impinged on lobbying appointments, the officials said.

Obama, who had directed his staff to ask AIPAC for the meeting, said he was ready to give AIPAC four hours after the activists finished their meetings.
Four hours of presidential time for a hypertrophied lobby -- and the lobby says 'no thanks' (or rather, 'no').  What is wrong with this picture?

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