It looks that the deal with Iran will become a reality. Opponents of the deal were unable to find a sound majority to override a veto or even to avoid a filibuster in the Senate.
However, it is not clear that this is a victory for the proponents of the deal or a defeat for those who opposed it.
To be sure, those Democratic legislators that ended voting for the deal did it after long hesitation. Although in some cases the way legislators voted was on partisan lines, many of those who hesitated ended voting for the deal because they knew there was no way back to the negotiating table.
The Europeans, the Chinese, and the Russian not only made that very clear but also pointed out that they intended to lift the sanctions unilaterally even if the U.S. decides not to join. Thus, many Democrats feared that walking away from the deal would have meant that the U.S. would lose control of the process and remain isolated.
Yet, opposition to the deal and hesitation played an important role because it sent a strong message to the Obama administration that the deal was flawed. Many of the deal flaws were already mentioned multiple times and there is no need to do it here again.
However, a key deficiency of the deal is that it negotiated only the nuclear dimension of Iran while removing Iran’s terrorist and destabilizing activities from the equation. As Iran is soon to receive 150 billion dollars from sanctions relief some fear that Iran may use a portion of it for terrorist activities.
If now the U.S. and Western powers wish to impose sanctions on Iran’s terrorist activities, such a step will be seen by Iran as an attempt to restore punitive measures under a new label.
We, in fact, have trapped ourselves because we have never seriously dealt with Iran’s terrorist and destabilizing activities. Crippling sanctions came only as a result of congressional pressure over the nuclear program.
Thus, as the debate turned heated and many Democrats hesitated, President Obama began to get the message. He wrote a letter to Congressman Jerrold Nadler, a liberal democrat from New York, promising to provide tunnel detection technology to Israel as well as an anti-missile system.
Likewise, Kerry promised to use all the tools necessary to prevent arm transfers to Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, and Shiite militants in Iraq.
There is no question that Congress needs to make sure that these promises become public law and the policy of our government. These administration pledges, if properly fulfilled, could mark the beginning of a long overdue American foreign policy in the Middle East.
The crisis of Syrian and Middle East refugees is part of our failure of leadership in the region. The U.S. and Western allies chose to do little to resolve the Syrian question.
Now some of them like the British Prime Minister David Cameron seem to realize that was a mistake. Liberal writers such Nicholas Kristof begin to realize that too. Likewise, Libya was abandoned to a state of anarchy and was no longer our problem. Now ISIS is advancing in a Libya that seems to fall deeper in a state of disarray.
To expect Iran to offer the solution to the advance of ISIS in the region, as it was suggested sometime ago by elements within the administration, is as delusional as it is dangerous.
Iran is only interested in increasing its negative influence over countries such as Iraq and Syria. Iran’s intervention in support of sectarian Shiite rule in Iraq only increased Sunni resentment and the rise of ISIS.
Likewise, a Saddam Hussein-era balance of powers, as some in the administration also suggested, is neither realistic nor desirable. Two evils don’t guarantee any long -term stability.
We need to work against Iran as if ISIS didn’t exist and to strive to eradicate ISIS as if Iran didn’t exist.
But in order to develop a creative and serious foreign policy we also need Congress. The legislative branch cannot just be a “yes” or “nay” political body. It must become a full partner in foreign policy.