The Corner

National Security & Defense

A Response to McCarthy

A friend sends along this note about Andy’s column on the Republicans and Iran this weekend, which I post below, FWIW:

I just wanted to register a dissent from Andy McCarthy’s typically muscular piece up this weekend on the homepage. I think the most important point is that Obama already has full legal authority to unilaterally waive U.S. sanctions. It’s not the Corker bill that allows Obama to lift U.S. sanctions; in fact the bill does the opposite — it actually suspends the president’s waiver authority during a 30-60 day review period. During that time, the bill forces Obama to pull his terrible agreement out from behind closed doors in Vienna and into the full view of the American public.

Critics of the Corker bill seem to think that we had a way to force Obama to seek Senate ratification and get a 2/3ds majority to approve the deal. Of course, the deal should have been done as a treaty. But there was no way to force the president to seek Senate ratification. The alternative to the Corker bill wasn’t Senate ratification, but rather that Obama was simply going to ignore Congress altogether, like he has this whole time. Nothing in the Corker bill would make the Iran deal more legally binding or legitimate than what it is, a totally non-binding executive agreement.

At the root of this dispute seems to be a disagreement not over policy, but over what the sanctions and the Corker bill actually do. Critics appear to have a different understanding than the senators who voted for it. In fact, if the Corker bill worked the way some of its critics describe it, no Republican would have voted in favor of it. But in key respects it actually does the opposite of what those critics think it does.

From what I can tell, all the Corker bill does is set up a procedure for Congress to kill the deal, which is exactly what opponents of the Iran deal want Congress to do. The Sasse letter to the president actually opened up a new line of attack on the deal, which is the Security Council aspect of it, something that nobody has bothered to talk about, and which has nothing to do with the Corker bill or U.S. sanctions. 

That’s why criticism of all the Iran hawks who voted in favor of the Corker bill (including Ben Sasse, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, etc.) seems not just unfair but totally unfounded. With one exception, Republicans unanimously supported the bill because it turns the heat up on Obama, and creates a situation in which lots of Democrats could end up voting against the deal. Are they really going give Iran $150 billion for terrorism expenditures and all the pieces of a nuclear weapons program only to protect Obama’s legacy?

Okay, they probably will, but that’s far from certain, and a small chance is better than no chance.

Respectfully . . .

Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via email: 

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