Why Congress Must Derail Obama's Iran Nuclear Deal

President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran is going to reward and embolden Tehran to continue its belligerent policies and give it a dominant position in the Middle East, to the detriment of American national security.

President Barack Obama would have the Congressional debate on his nuclear pact with Iran focus on its technical details contained in the publicly released document, although reports of numerous side agreements and letters that have not been released raise questions about the full scope of the pact. The Obama administration, however, habitually suffers a preoccupation with tactical minutia and neglect of sound strategic thinking. Focusing exclusively on the technical details of the nuclear deal in the Congressional debate would be akin to examining tactical “weeds” at the risk of missing the strategic “forest.”

Tehran masterfully parlayed President Obama’s hunger for a foreign-policy legacy showcase into a pact that would preserve Iran’s robust, diverse and sophisticated nuclear program. Iran’s nuclear program, which Tehran clandestinely operated for years in violation of the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), would be legitimized in the eyes of the international community, releasing Iran from international economic, political and military sanctions. Tehran diplomatically accomplished all of this without altering its militant Islamic ideology, authoritarian repression at home, or its aid and abetment of terrorism and paramilitary operations abroad. In short, Iran has shown the world that crime does indeed pay.

President Obama no doubt is looking to cement his presidential legacy with a bold and transformative play with Iran much as President Richard Nixon did with the opening of American relations with China. Obama administration officials are profoundly wrongheaded, however, in thinking that these relationships are in any way analogous. President Nixon established a relationship with China to balance the Soviet power during the Cold War. The Obama administration, in contrast, is gifting Tehran with a preponderance of power in the Middle East to the detriment of American, Israeli and Arab security interests.

American commentary—especially in academic circles—lambasts Israel for opposing the nuclear agreement. But the discourse neglects the fact that Israel once had close ties with Iran under the shah and would love to return to those days of security cooperation. The Israelis know too well, however, that the Iranian regime remains ideologically hostile to Israel in particular and the West in general despite Iran’s demographic youth bulge. The Israelis live in Iran’s proximity and see more clearly than any senior Obama administration official Iranian-sponsored violence on the ground such as Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces protecting Assad’s regime in Syria, Iranian monetary and military support for Hamas in Gaza, and the building-up of Hezbollah rocket and missile inventories in Lebanon to ready for the next round of warfare against Israel.

The Israelis, along with Arab Gulf states, are gravely concerned that they will have to bear bloody costs for President Obama’s naiveté and largesse with Tehran. Iran’s conventional military capabilities, thanks to international sanctions, are no threat to Israel or the Arab states today, but they will be after Iran gains economic windfalls from sanctions relief and modern arms purchased as promised by the nuclear pact. Iran’s efforts to build up its ballistic-missile forces have been hampered by international sanctions, but those barriers would be lifted under the nuclear pact. While President Obama is comfortably tending to his presidential library at the University of Chicago, the Israelis and Arabs might be facing “Obama” missiles tipped with “Barack” nuclear warheads fired from Iran in another round of Middle East war.

The Obama administration strangely proclaims that the agreement with Iran is strictly limited to the nuclear issue. And yet, the pact’s terms would infuse Iran with cash and the ability to buy modern conventional military capabilities and ballistic missiles. If there is a bright side to Obama’s policy madness, it would lead to a huge windfall for American defense contractors selling ballistic-missile defenses and weapons systems to Israel and the Arab Gulf states to counter future Iranian military capabilities.

President Obama is upending long-standing American strategy in the Gulf with his alignment with Iran. Since the 1980s, American security policy aimed to prevent either Iran or Iraq from dominating the Gulf. The Arab Gulf states today judge that the United States has allowed—either by design or foolishness—Iran to emerge as the dominant political influence behind the Shia-dominated government in Iraq. They see the “smoking gun” evidence in Baghdad’s reliance on Iranian-backed militias and Revolutionary Guard forces to counter the Islamic State’s capture of Iraqi territory. The Arabs, moreover, view the Obama administration’s  policy in Syria as feckless, marked by the refusal to directly target the Assad regime, timid and sluggish support for training and arming Syrian opposition forces, and allowing Islamic State sanctuary in Syria to support its reach into Iraq. The Arab Gulf states judge from this collective body of evidence that the Obama administration is squarely lining up behind Iran in the Shia-Sunni civil war in Islam.