The headline emerging from President Obama’s Tuesday meeting with Jewish leaders was stunning. If Congress rejects the Iran deal, he reportedly said, we can expect rockets to “rain down on Tel Aviv.”
If Congress rejects the deal, he said, the Iranians will attempt to race to the bomb, the US will be forced to attack them, and Iran will respond by attacking Israel directly through proxies. “They will fight this asymmetrically. That means more support for terrorism, more Hezbollah rockets falling on Tel Aviv,” Obama was quoted as saying. Surprisingly, he said that the result of congressional disapproval would not be the US going to war with Iran. Israel would suffer most. “I can assure you that Israel will bear the brunt of the asymmetrical response that Iran will have to a military strike on its nuclear facilities.”
News flash for Obama (who doesn’t appear to understand what asymmetrical means): Israelis have faced rockets from Iranian proxies for more than a decade now. And we have lived to tell the tale.
We have survived four rounds in the last decade, and it isn’t pleasant. Rockets kill, and maim, and destroy homes and the possibility of normal life. But, even if there is an order of magnitude increase in frequency and accuracy of the rockets or, more accurately, missiles, this outcome is far better from Israel’s perspective relative to waiting for the Iranians to develop a nuclear arsenal and a new generation of delivery and detonation systems.
Netanyahu, after all, has warned incessantly that allowing the Iranians to develop their nuclear capabilities, with the blessing of the superpowers and with a massive influx of cash, is far worse.
“This deal will bring war,” he cautioned. “Iran can keep the deal or Iran can cheat on the deal,” Either way, it will have the bomb, Netanyahu said, before adding, “hundreds of bombs.” Further, he said, addressing the tens of thousands of American Jews watching his webcast, Iran has been building intercontinental ballistic missiles and aircraft refueling capabilities “to hit you,” not Israel.
Obama’s warning was framed as a not-so-veiled threat, especially to Jewish Democrats. Submit, or face the charge of dual loyalty and blame and isolation: not just the Jewish State but each American Jew.
He was saying that rejection of the porous deal and its secret side deals and classified annexes, would force America to go to war, precisely the outcome that he accused Netanyahu of fomenting. And by extension, he was blaming opponents of the deal of causing the loss of American blood and treasure, ostensibly in defense of Israel.
Obama’s logic is lacking. Even in his own imagined scenario, he is not going to war to defend Israel. Israel is bearing the brunt of an unprovoked attack. America is defending its own interest that the Mahdi-men of Iran never develop nuclear weapons. If Congressional rejection of the Swiss Cheese agreement is a “provocation” that would cause an Iranian race to war, maybe the Ayatollahs and mullahs are not so sincere in their commitment to the peaceful atom after all.
So why wouldn’t this be a desirable outcome? Congress rejects a bad deal, the Iranians huff and puff and then either they return to the bargaining table, or they or their proxies make the mistake of racing to the bomb and/or attacking Israel. That would be the military equivalent of a premature ejaculation.
Israel then, and the US, too, would have every justification to act in self-defense and use surgical but decisive force to set back the Iranian nuclear weapons program back by years, and turn Fordo, Isfahan, Bushehr and Parchin into piles of smoking rubble. Saves money. Saves time. Less to inspect.
In fact, even if Obama prefers not to take military action – and one strongly doubts that he has the will -- Israel acting alone would be in a better position to defend itself from a position of strength, before Iran strengthens itself with the windfall of sanctions relief and “modernization” of its nuclear program.
Not only that. Should Israel go it alone, the US can remain neutral, an honest broker, with plausible deniability. We tried to push the deal through, Obama, could honestly say, but Congress overruled us.
Congressional disapproval would provoke Iran to make a premature proxy attack that would provide Israel with a justification to defend itself under optimal conditions and to set back substantially the Iranian nuclear weapons program. Thanks for the suggestion and self-fulfilling prophecy, Mr. President.
Even if the threat of retaliation is just a “credible option on the table,” a democratic challenge sounds like a pretty good test of Iranian good faith.
Secretary Kerry worries that a Congressional rejection would give the Ayatollah an “ultimate screwing.” He worries that American diplomacy won’t be taken seriously the future, and that would he lose face. He worries about his Nobel with his buddy Zarif. But as the concessions and almost inconceivable bumbles of the Kerrystone Kops in Vienna continue to pile up, that will be like beating a dead horse.
If the Iranians can insist that approval by their Majlis (pseudo parliament) is an essential precondition for the deal’s implementation, why shouldn’t the US Congress have same right and discretion? And why didn’t the Administration use the need Congressional approval to leverage a better deal?
That leverage remains as long as Congressional representatives have the courage and conscience to exercise their common sense and sense of responsibility to stand up to an enemy and back an ally.
For all his sanctimonious lip service to Israel as a “friend and ally,” Obama – now visibly in panic mode as conscientious objection of Democrats and a Congressional override of his pet project becomes conceivable – is pulling out all stops and desperately trying to paint deal opponents as warmongers. He is leaving Israel out to dry, alone to face the rain of rockets.
The Iranians mocked Obama by posting a graphic showing him with a gun to his head. Perhaps that inspired him to make his self-inflicted wound.
In his petulance Obama himself has now painted a scenario whereby a Congressional override leads to a result that is far superior for American interests than “kicking the can down the road” and allowing the Iranians a sure path to the bomb, by keeping the deal or by violating the deal, as Netanyahu has said.
If the Administration used its substantial leverage to get a better deal, then perhaps a confrontation could have been avoided. But now that Obama has showed – a bit like Lenny Kravitz -- that “the Emperor has split his pants,” it is down to Congress – Congressional Democrats in particular -- to stand up and be counted, to test and verify Iranian intentions, and protect American interests.
Members of the US Congress, no less than representatives of the Iranian Majlis, have the obligation to review the agreement before it is a done deal. The Administration tried to use the Security Council resolution to deny the Senate and House a serious say. The Administration disingenuously allowed “side deals” between the Iranians and the IAEA that even Kerry claims not to have read, not to mention 17 other documents that have been classified and concealed from public scrutiny.
Obama will pay for trying an end-around the Congress and the American people. Now he and his appointees are stooping to the old trick of anti-Semitic insinuation and accusations of dual loyalty. How low will they go?
Now it is the moment of the men and women of the US Congress -- one by one -- to stand tall and show the world and their constituents that Americans cannot be held hostage to intimidation. Citizens standing up for their principles and their country cannot be tarred with the brush of dual loyalty. Loyal Americans are the ones who stand by their democratic allies before they submit to democracy’s enemies.