Many of the same people who rushed America to War with Iraq are now engaged in a no-holds-barred campaign to convince a small group of House and Senate Democrats that they should vote to kill President Obama’s Iran Nuclear Agreement when Congress returns in September.
But the fact is that opposing the Iran Nuclear Deal is horrible politics for Democrats.
If it were defeated, it would be even worse from America – and, by the way, for Israel.
The case is made succinctly in a new video by Americans United for Change:
First, the politics.
Reason #1: Polls show that everyday Americans – and especially Democrats – overwhelmingly support the agreement, and they have been supportive of the process that led to the agreement for many months.
A Public Policy Polling nationwide poll taken July 23-24 found 54% of the public supported the nuclear agreement with Iran and only 38% opposed.
According to PPP:
Democratic voters (75/17) are far more united in their favor for the agreement than Republicans (36/54) were in their opposition to it. Voters within every gender, race, and age group are in support of it.
Similarly, 54% of voters want their members of Congress to vote to allow the agreement to move forward, compared to just 39% who would like to see it blocked.
It may surprise some pundits that an even greater number of Jewish voters support the deal. According to a poll by GBA Strategies for J Street, a progressive pro-Israel lobbying group, Jewish voters support the deal by a 20-point margin – 60% in favor and 40% against. Jewish voters strongly support action by Congress to approve the agreement.
And in New York City, where several Democrats are still undecided about their support for the agreement, a PPP poll taken last week found that 59% of the city’s voters want their Member of Congress to allow the deal to go forward, compared to only 33% who do not.
In New York City, of course, most key electoral races for Democrats are Democratic primaries. Far from experiencing a backlash if they support the Iran deal, Democratic Members of Congress will likely benefit. In fact, 54% of voters say they are more likely to vote for someone who supports the agreement, while only 25% say they’d be less likely to.
Reason #2: If the Iran deal goes into effect at the beginning of October as it is supposed to do, every indication is that it will be going very well by the time any Members of Congress face the voters in either a Primary or General Election.
The interim agreement that froze Iran’s nuclear program during the 18 months of negotiation that preceded the consummation of the final agreement was derided by Neo-Cons at the time it was signed. They argued that Iran would never adhere to its terms and it would collapse.
Not only did it not collapse, but many of those same voices thought it was working so well by early this year that they urged the U.S. to scrap the negotiations in favor of trying to maintain the interim deal that that they had earlier excoriated.
By next spring, there is every reason to believe that the same will be true with the permanent agreement.
There is no danger that a vote for the Iran agreement will create a nightmare scenario by the next election. But there is a very high likelihood that if Congress rejects the deal, America could be facing a major foreign policy disaster by next year that will be hung directly around the necks of those voting no. More on those consequences in a moment.
Reason #3: Many of the Democrats who oppose the Iran Deal, or are undecided about their support, fear a backlash from a very small group of influential Democratic donors and bundlers.
But many of them ignore the rise of a whole new group of progressive Democratic donors – and progressive Jewish donors – that are just as committed to supporting the agreement as opponents are to stopping it. J-Street – the progressive alternative to AIPAC – has exploded in size over the last five years. From the point of view of fundraising and political support, these donors represent the future for Democratic Members of Congress.
What’s more, many progressive Democratic donors have made it clear that they will refuse to support opponents of the deal in the next cycle.
Reason #4: Democrats who oppose the deal will be isolating themselves from the vast majority of Democratic voters (including Jewish Democratic voters), from the overwhelming majority of Democratic Members of Congress, from the House Democratic Leadership and from the Democratic President.
That isn’t good politics for anyone who wants to have influence within the Democratic caucuses of the House or Senate – or the White House.
Reason #5: The organized progressive community within the Democratic Party is every bit as intense in their support for this agreement as the small number of opponents.
Opponents of the deal are likely to alienate these organizations and their leadership for years to come and to bear the brunt of intense criticism from groups that have no compunction inflicting political costs onto Democrats who they believe have betrayed their principles.
Reason #6: Most importantly, Democrats who vote against the Iran Agreement will ultimately find themselves on the wrong side of history.
This vote is an “Iraq War” moment that will fundamentally define Members of Congress for the rest of their careers.
Thirteen years later, there are not many Democrats in Congress who voted in favor of the Iraq War and are glad they took that vote. Many of them have paid a steep political price for allowing themselves to be rushed into war by many of the same people who today are urging that the Iran Agreement be stopped.
There are simply no alternatives to this agreement other than a nuclear Iran or military conflict. If the U.S. Congress stops this agreement, our partners will end sanctions and we will get nothing in return from Iran. The hard-liners in Iran will be emboldened and will argue that the U.S. never really wanted a negotiated agreement and that the only way for Iran to protect itself is to actually build a nuclear bomb.
In that situation, it would likely require another war in the Middle East to stop Iran from getting a nuclear bomb– a war for which those who vote against this agreement will be held personally responsible.
Voting against this deal is horrible politics for Democrats. It is even worse policy for America.
Reason #7: There is no “better deal.” As Treasury Secretary Jack Lew made clear in the New York Times, those who argue that by unilaterally ramping up sanctions America could force Iran to dismantle its entire nuclear program – or even the character of the regime wholesale – are engaging in “dangerous fantasy” that flies in the face of economic and diplomatic reality.
The countries with the other major economies in the world joined us in a sanctions regime against Iran that was successful at bringing them to the bargaining table and producing an agreement that will prevent Iran from getting a nuclear bomb. They participated because they believed that Iran’s nuclear program represented an uncontained threat to global security – and because we offered a specific path to a diplomatic solution.
Those countries believe we achieved our objective. They all support the agreement – along with the UN Security Council and 90 other countries. They believe – along with most nuclear experts – that the deal constrains the Iran nuclear program for the long term and ensures it is exclusively peaceful.
They will not join us in going back to the negotiating table. Their sanctions will simply end.
The notion that the U.S. could somehow force other countries to re-impose sanctions by levying secondary sanctions on them also ignores economic reality.
Most of these countries, like the European Union, China, Japan, India and South Korea – and their companies – represent our trading partners and the largest economies in the world. Secretary Lew points out that:
If we were to cut them off from the American dollar and our financial system, we would set off extensive financial hemorrhaging, not just in our partner countries but in the United States as well.
The major importers of Iranian oil – China, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey – together account for nearly a fifth of our goods exports and own 47% of foreign-held American treasuries. They will not agree to indefinite economic sacrifices in the name of an illusory better deal.
Reason #8: Nuclear experts say the deal has the toughest restrictions of any weapons agreement in history.
A letter authored by 29 of the world’s foremost experts in nuclear power and arms control says:
This is an innovative agreement, with much more stringent constraints than any previously negotiated non-proliferation framework.
A key result of these restrictions is that it would take Iran many months to enrich uranium for a weapon. We contrast this with the situation before the interim agreement was negotiated in Lausanne: at that time Iran had accumulated enough 20 percent enriched uranium that the required additional enrichment time for weapons use was only a few weeks…..
Some have expressed concern that the deal will free Iran to develop nuclear weapons without constraint after ten years. In contrast we find that the deal includes important long-term verification procedures that last until 2040, and others that last indefinitely under the NPT and its Additional Protocol.
The signers of this letter include six Nobel laureates, one of the physicists who helped design the first hydrogen bomb, a former Director of the Los Alamos Weapons Laboratory (the facility that produced designs for most of the arms now in the nation’s nuclear arsenal), and the head of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In other words, these are people who actually know what is involved in building nuclear weapons – not just reading talking points produced by a political consulting firm.
Their views are echoed by more than 100 former Ambassadors from both parties who signed a letter to President Obama endorsing the deal – including five who had been ambassadors to Israel.
And while hawkish Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has convinced most elements in the Israeli political class to oppose the deal, the country’s national security class – and its scientists – supports the agreement.
Reason #9: The inspection regime to prevent cheating is more robust than anything ever negotiated into an arms agreement.
The agreement blocks any of the three paths Iran could use to get a nuclear weapon – uranium enrichment, production of plutonium or clandestine means. It would change the “breakout” time necessary for Iran to get a nuclear weapon from a matter of weeks to a year.
And if we do catch them cheating, it will be Iran that is isolated from the rest of the world – not the United States.
If they did cheat, there is a “snap back” provision that would actually result in the re-imposition of international sanctions. And if the new sanctions weren’t enough we would have massively more intelligence and inspection data to use in planning military action. Now we have virtually none.
If, on the other hand, the United States Congress sinks the deal, it will be America that is isolated and we would not be able to re-impose international sanctions at all. We would have the worst of all worlds: no international sanctions, no international unity, emboldened hard liners in Iran, and no way to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon other than another Mid East War.
Reason #10: As Senator Joe Donnelly said in his announcement of support for the agreement:
I owe it to the men and women of our Armed Forces and to the people of Indiana to have exhausted every other option to stop Iran before we would consider putting any of our service members in harm’s way.
War is not just another “policy option.” Once you launch military action, circumstances spin out of control and – as in Iraq – hundreds of thousands could die. Just ask the men and women of our military how great it is to be part of a war – particularly part of a war of occupation in the Middle East.
And let us remember the General Colin Powell’s “Pottery Barn rule”: “If you break it you own it.”
We spent at least two trillion dollars on the War in Iraq after we “broke it.” And when we invaded Iraq, we kicked over the sectarian hornet’s nest that made way for ISIS.
Do we really want to try to occupy Iran – a country many times bigger than Iraq with a much more robust military?
Yet many of the people who are leading the campaign to block this agreement want the United States to take military action to achieve “regime change” in Iran.
In an opinion piece in March in The New York Times, former Bush U.N. Ambassador and leading proponent of the Iraq War John Bolton wrote that when it came to Iran:
The inconvenient truth is that only military action ……can accomplish what is required.
That is exactly the kind of thinking that led America into the worst foreign policy disaster in half a century. It is amazing that people like Bolton – who are personally responsible for that disaster – have the audacity to propose that America start yet another war in the Middle East.
They were wrong about Iraq. Now they are wrong about Iran.
They fooled America once. Don’t let them fool us again.
Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on Amazon.com. He is a partner in Democracy Partners and a Senior Strategist for Americans United for Change. Follow him on Twitter @rbcreamer.