James Shott / September 15, 2015

What, Exactly, Is the Real Goal of the Iran Nuclear Agreement?

“Senate Democrats voted to uphold the hard-fought nuclear accord with Iran on Thursday, overcoming ferocious GOP opposition and delivering President Barack Obama a legacy-making victory on his top foreign policy priority.” So read the opening paragraph of the Associated Press story last Friday, identifying the Obama legacy as one product of the deal on Iranian nuclear aspirations.

A presidential legacy has been an elusive goal for Mr. Obama, as previous efforts have dramatically fallen by the wayside. He is succeeding in killing the coal industry in the name of environmental improvement, but the improvement is virtually non-existent, while economic harm and lost jobs dwarf any noticeable environmental improvement.

Certainly, no one will consider the Fast and Furious gun-running debacle that led to the death of a U.S. Border Patrol agent or the incompetent handling of the Benghazi, Libya situation that resulted in the murders of four Americans, including our Ambassador to Libya, as the stuff of which a legacy is made.

And, the supposed jewel in the crown, the Affordable Care Act, which is affectionately known as Obamacare, is as bad as it is good, or worse.

One remaining possibility is to fashion an historic agreement to reign in the efforts of Iran, the world’s greatest supporter of global terrorism, to acquire nuclear weapons. A multi-national agreement — a treaty — led by the United States, bringing nations together to stop the rogue nation’s nuclear advances and save Israel and perhaps the U.S. from potential nuclear catastrophe.

Black’s Law Dictionary defines a treaty as “an agreement between two or more independent states,” meaning two or more nations, and Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution states: “He [the President] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur…”

But there’s a problem. The agreement that these nations created has stark weaknesses that have produced strong, principled opposition.

But credit Mr. Obama for recognizing those weaknesses and developing a strategy to minimize their effect on getting the deal approved: rather than submit the treaty as a treaty, he managed to maneuver it around so that it is merely an “agreement” that doesn’t require Senate approval.

But make no mistake: this agreement IS a treaty. And so is the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) with 13 other nations, that Mr. Obama also prefers to pass off as a mere “agreement.”

However, if the treaty clause of the Constitution means anything it must be applied to those two agreements because they are not simple agreements about an ambassador or similar routine matter; they will affect the nation for decades to come, long after Mr. Obama has gone on his way.

The Senate’s role is outlined on the Senate.gov Website as follows, in part: “As Alexander Hamilton explained in Federalist no. 75, ‘the operation of treaties as laws, plead strongly for the participation of the whole or a portion of the legislative body in the office of making them.’ The constitutional requirement that the Senate approve a treaty with a two-thirds vote means that successful treaties must gain support that overcomes partisan division.”

Given the importance of the Iran agreement and the TPP, trying to call them something other than treaties so as to circumvent Constitutionally required Senate approval tells us a lot about the weaknesses of the Iran deal. And it says plenty about Barack Obama, who works hard to avoid the constitutional separation of powers for his own benefit.

Virginia’s 9th District Republican Congressman Morgan Griffith issued a statement last week that reads in part: “The President’s deeply flawed and misguided deal with Iran is a serious security matter not only for the United States, but also for our allies in the Middle East. I believe we must use all tools possible to stop this deal in its tracks and avoid placing our citizens and allies at greater risk.”

Further opposition came from three Senators from the president’s own party, who have vastly more experience than he does in foreign policy — Senators Chuck Schumer of New York, Ben Carden, of Maryland, and Robert Menendez of New Jersey — who decided to oppose the Iran agreement. However, enough Senate Democrats like the agreement to defeat the Senate effort to stop it, which consisted of passing a resolution of disapproval, which Mr. Obama could veto. Democrats have enough votes to prevent over-riding the veto, however.

The deal includes lifting sanctions on $140 billion or so of locked-up Iranian funds, prevents American inspectors from participating in any inspections of Iranian facilities, provides for Iran to conduct all inspections at the Parchin nuclear bomb trigger development site, and provides for a 24-day delay in some inspection demands. And last weekend Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has previously said that Israel would not survive another 25 years and has pledged “Death to America,” urged radicals to launch lone wolf attacks against Americans.

What could possible go wrong?

This agreement may get Barack Obama the legacy he seeks, but will ultimately maintain the significant risk the U.S. and its allies face from a nuclear Iran. Is that a legacy worth having?

James Shott is a columnist for the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, and publishes his columns on several Websites, including his own, Observations.

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