Members of the Iranian air force re-enact the scene of founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's arrival to Iran in 1979 at Merhrabad airport.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
It’s difficult to decide which was the most incendiary of US President Barack Obama’s comments during his speech last week at American University in defense of his Iran deal – also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Was it his attempt to equate America’s Republican Party with the fundamentalist Shi’ite mullahs running the Islamic Republic? That is essentially what the US president did when he claimed Iranian fanatics opposed to the deal were “making common cause with the Republican caucus.”
The US president’s attempt to transform the JCPOA into a partisan issue, however, has failed miserably.
A number of key Jewish Democrats in Congress have said they will oppose the Iran deal. US Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) is the most senior Jewish member of Congress to declare his intention to oppose the deal. Congressman Eliot Engel (D-New York) also declared his opposition to the agreement. Engel joins four other Democratic lawmakers from New York House of Representatives who are opposed.
Perhaps the most caustic barb was Obama’s claim that there are no plausible arguments against the JCPOA. Opposition is not about substance, claimed Obama, but about “knee-jerk partisanship,” about the same sort of warmongering that went on before America’s invasion of Iraq. Yet, Obama chooses to forget that it is his own leadership style that has contributed so much to this very same “knee-jerk partisanship” that characterizes debate about nearly every important foreign or domestic policy decision throughout his two terms as president.
He also chooses to forget that the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s evil regime, which carried out a genocide against the Kurds, that terrorized the Iraqi people, that financially supported the families of suicide terrorists in Israel and that invaded neighboring Kuwait was an honorable act which was supported by high-ranking members of the Democratic Party. The aftereffects of the American invasion were undoubtedly negative but difficult to foretell at the time.
There was another comment made by Obama during the speech, however, that referred directly to Israel.
There was, in Obama’s mind, no conceivable reason to oppose the Iran deal as an American, but there was, Obama claimed, a reason to oppose the deal as an Israeli or as a person concerned with Israel’s security.
On one hand, this was an admirable recognition by Obama of Israel’s legitimate concerns about the dangers presented by a regime headed by leaders who in Obama’s own words “deny the Holocaust, embrace and ideology of anti-Semitism, facilitate the flow of rockets that are arrayed on Israel’s borders.”
But at the same time Obama was saying something else. He was saying that the only conceivable reason that a US congressman could possibly oppose the deal with Iran is if he or she are concerned about Israel’s security, not the US’s.
But the reality is that there are very good reasons for Americans to be concerned about a deal with a country led by mullahs who are serial violators of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the world’s leading state sponsors of terrorism, have the blood of thousands of Americans on their hands from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, and who still lead chants of “Death to America” on a weekly basis.
Senator Schumer’s concerns include the weakness of the inspection regime which will not be “anywhere, anytime,” the fact that the US will not be able to demand inspections unilaterally but will need to convince a majority of the six nations, and that the “snapback” provisions are cumbersome and difficult to implement. He also worries what will happen after the 10-year restrictions are gradually removed and Iran is permitted to be a threshold nuclear state.
Now is a time for sober, serious analysis, debate, exchange and open-minded thinking about the pros and cons of the Iran deal. Instead of impugning motives and hiding behind emotional arguments, the president should be open to the very legitimate criticism voiced from senior members of his own party such as Schumer and others. Winning the battle in Congress is important for Obama. But protecting core American interests should be even more important.