This week the Senate Foreign Relations Committee takes up a bill sponsored by Senators Corker and Menendez that would give the GOP-controlled Congress veto power over recently-concluded Framework Agreement that would prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
The bill sounds reasonable enough. Its backers say it is only intended to give Congress the ability to sign off on the final agreement.
In fact, it represents a last-ditch effort by the same Neo-Con crowd that brought us the disastrous Iraq War to delay and then kill the deal.
The reason is simple – and some Neo-Cons like former Bush U.N. Ambassador John Bolton don’t try to hide it. They want the U.S. to take military action against Iran. They want another war in the Middle East.
Experts in arms control throughout the World have hailed the deal – which was negotiated between the United States, the other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, Germany and Iran -- as a major breakthrough.
Most military experts familiar with the details of the framework – including the former head of the Israeli Intelligence Service Mossad -- believe that the agreement is the best alternative for preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
The agreement requires extensive and intrusive monitoring of Iran's nuclear program--including daily access by international inspectors--to make sure that Iran is living up to its commitments.
Experts say that without an agreement, Iran could produce enough highly-enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon within two or three months if they chose to do so. This agreement increases that time to at least twelve months. If Iran made any attempt to break the agreement, it would give the United States and its allies time to take action.
And it is clear as day that if the diplomatic process fails, the U.S. will be left with two terrible options: a nuclear Iran or another Middle East War.
Most military experts agree that simply bombing Iran's nuclear facilities would only set back Iran's nuclear program, not eliminate it. So the military option would almost certainly require American involvement in another full-blown Middle Eastern war.
If the United States Congress manages to kill the nuclear deal, international support for the sanctions that have brought Iran to the negotiating table will collapse, and the hardliners in Iran who want a nuclear bomb will be strengthened politically and emboldened to race for a bomb.
The Framework Agreement announced in Switzerland turns out to be much more detailed – and much more iron-clad -- than the Neo-Cons’ dire warnings had predicted. So now they have opted to take a more subtle approach.
“Oh”, they say, “all we want to is to give Congress the right to have a say.”
Of course, this line of argument completely ignores the Constitution, which clearly gives the President the right and responsibility to negotiate international agreements and conduct foreign policy.
The nuclear agreement with Iran is not, after all, a legally binding international treaty that must be approved by the Senate. As many Republicans are quick to point out, it could be abrogated by a Republican President if the voters choose to elect one in 2016.
Why in the world would anyone want to give the completely dysfunctional GOP-led Congress the ability to veto this critical agreement?
Why would any Democrat in his or her right mind want to hand that power to the likes of Senator Ted Cruz or to “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” McCain, or to the Tea Party “nuclear experts” who dominate the House Republican caucus.
Do we really want to give that power to people like Tom Cotton, who organized 47 of his GOP colleagues to send a letter to the Ayatollah in Iran explicitly trying to undercut the negotiating position of the United States and the West by telling him that our country would not keep its end of an international agreement.
That would be handing over power to the same reckless people that caused one of the most horrific foreign policy disasters in modern American history. These are many of the same people who are directly responsible for wasting trillions of dollars on the War in Iraq – for the deaths of thousands of American soldiers, and over a hundred thousand Iraqis. They are the foreign policy geniuses that turned Iraq over to a President who had spent years of exile in Iran – who was a client of Iranian leadership – and then were amazed that Iran’s power in the region increased.
These are the very same people who kicked over the sectarian hornets nest in Iraq and loosed the horrible sectarian energy that spawned ISIL. They are the same people who presided over the debacles at Guantanamo and Abu Grebe – symbols that became terrorist recruiting posters for extremists world wide.
Just last week Senator Tom Cotton sounded like he was doing a Dick Cheney imitation when he said that it would only take a few days of bombing to deal with the Iranian nuclear program. Right, Tom – just like the War in Iraq only lasted a few months, we were greeted as “liberators,” and the war actually “paid for itself” out of oil revenues.
These are the same people who warned us that “the smoking gun could be a mushroom cloud” generated by Sadam Hussein’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction.
It isn’t just that these people have a different point of view – or a different set of policy priorities. They have proven time and again that they don’t know what they are talking about. They have proven that their reckless, shoot-first-ask-questions-later foreign policy is an absolute catastrophy.
Tom Cotton was quoted last week saying: “The President is trying to make you think that (military action in Iran would be like what) we saw in Iraq and that’s simply not the case. It would be several days of air and naval bombing.”
Marine Corp General Anthony Zinni, former Commander-in-Chief of the Central Command says on the other hand: “ After you’ve dropped those bombs, what happens next? Eventually…. I’m putting boots on the ground somewhere. And like I tell my friends, if you like Iraq and Afghanistan, you’ll love Iran.”
Who do you believe?
The people who are beating the war drums with Iran have a proven record of being wrong. And it would be very wrong for Democrats to turn over the power to stop this agreement to those very same people once again.
To stop this last-ditch effort to kill this critical agreement, all Democrats need to do is to prevent the bill from obtaining a veto-proof majority of 67 votes in the Senate or 290 votes in the House.
This requires that Democrats refuse to be stampeded into taking a vote that could easily result in another Mid-East war, the way some of them were stampeded into voting to authorize the invasion of Iraq.
Many people forget that 60 percent of the Democratic Caucus in the House voted against authorizing the Iraq War. Most of those who voted “yes” regret it to this day.
The Congress does have a role to play here. It should carefully monitor the final negotiation of the details of the deal – and oversee the agreement’s implementation. If Iran reneges on its obligations, it should stand ready to impose tough new sanctions. And if that were to happen, there is little question that the rest of the international community would be ready to join us once again, because Iran would be the bad guy – not the United States.
Luckily, some Democrats in the Senate who have previously indicated they would support the Corker-Menendez bill have begun to have second thoughts.
If you agree that Senate Democrats should stand with President Obama and not Neo-Con Republicans – if you agree it's a bad idea to empower Iranian hard-liners by stopping this agreement – if you oppose another War in the Middle East – call your Senators right now at 202-224-3121 and tell them to vote NO on Corker-Menendez.
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.