The Iran Nuclear Agreement

I believe history will look to the Iran nuclear agreement as a mistake as significant as the Munich Accords were to World War II.  It gave Iran’s Islamic-Fascist dictators $150 billion in frozen assets with which to pursue their military and terrorist activities and to finance their nuclear arms program.  It gave them the legal right to continue research and development of advanced centrifuges and heavy water – the only purpose of which is to produce nuclear weapons.  It gave them legal access to the conventional arms market in five years and to ICBM’s in just 8 years.  Its lack of verifiability with a regime notorious for breaking agreements is breathtaking in its naiveté or outright duplicity.   And it undermined the Iranian opposition just when that opposition was about to boil over.

It also marked a surrender of the constitutional prerogative of the Senate to approve treaties.   Driven by Democratic obstructionism in the Senate, Congress failed to forthrightly confront a rogue executive, first by abjectly surrendering its Constitutional prerogatives by passing the Corker Act and then failing to follow through even with this watered down alternative.

The Real Problem

House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. – May 19, 2015

Mr. Speaker:

A large and respected Iranian expatriate community has settled in California, and it has been my privilege to get to know some of them in recent years.  They are part of an international Diaspora of five million people who fled Iran after it fell to Islamic fascism thirty five years ago.

The stories they tell are blood curdling.  One woman told of her cousin who had been rounded up in an anti-government demonstration and taken to prison.  After several years, the families were informed that their loved ones would be released in the town square.  The excited families gathered for the long awaited reunion, only to have their sons hanged before their eyes.

A doctor told me of his college days in Paris.  He had called home to tell his brother in Tehran of an anti-Khomeini demonstration.  His brother was promptly arrested, tortured and imprisoned, simply for listening.

A few months ago, after many years of silence, the brother in America received a call from his brother in Iran, telling him of the simmering unrest throughout Iran.  The American brother told him to shut up – to remember what happened the last time they spoke candidly.  His brother in Tehran said, “I don’t care anymore.  They can’t arrest all of us.”  All of the Iranian expatriates I spoke with tell me the same thing: the economic sanctions and international isolation of the regime was bringing Iran to the brink of revolution.

This brings us to the President’s negotiations with Iran’s fascist-Islamic leaders.

Any agreement with Iran’s leaders is meaningless, because their word is meaningless.  Iran’s government is a notoriously untrustworthy rogue state that has made it unmistakably clear that it intends to acquire nuclear weapons and once acquired, to use them.  The only way to avert this nightmare — short of war — is for the regime to collapse from within.

Over the last several years, the Iranian opposition has grown dramatically for two reasons: there is a strong and growing perception among the Iranian people that the Iranian dictatorship is a pariah in the international community; and the resulting international economic sanctions have created conditions that make the regime’s overthrow imperative.

At precisely this moment in history, Barack Obama did incalculable damage by initiating these negotiations.  By engaging this rogue state, President Obama has given it international recognition and legitimacy at just the moment when it had lost legitimacy in the eyes of its own people.  Worse, by promising relief from economic sanctions, he has removed the most compelling reason the organized Iranian resistance had to justify the regime’s overthrow.

It is not the outcome of the negotiations that matters because ANY agreement with Iran’s conniving leaders is meaningless.  It is the negotiations themselves that have greatly strengthened the regime — just when it was most vulnerable from the growing opposition of its own people.

The House just passed HR 1191 that purports to restore Congressional oversight into these talks.  I believe it completely missed the point.

Our Constitution requires that any treaty be approved by 2/3 of the Senate.  This wasn’t going to happen, so Mr. Obama simply redefined the prospective treaty as an agreement between leaders – an agreement with no force of law and no legal standing.

I fear that Congress has just changed this equation by establishing a wholly extra-constitutional process that lends the imprimatur of Congress to these ill-advised negotiations with no practical way to stop the lifting of sanctions.  Instead of 2/3 of the Senate having to approve a treaty as the Constitution requires, this agreement takes effect automatically unless 2/3 of both houses reject it – a complete sham.

I fear that this bill gives tacit approval to extremely harmful negotiations that Congress instead ought to vigorously condemn and unambiguously repudiate.

We can only pray that in the days ahead, what Churchill called “the Parliamentary democracies” will regain the national leadership required to prevent a repetition of the Munich Accords in the Middle East.

That will require treating the Iranian dictatorship as the international pariah that it is.  And it will require providing every ounce of moral and material support that the Iranian opposition needs to rid their nation of this fascist-Islamic dictatorship, to restore their proud heritage and to re-take their place among the civilized nations of the world.

A Breathtakingly Dangerous Act

House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. – July 15, 2015

Mr. Speaker:

I don’t know how adequately to express my alarm and outrage at the President’s agreement with Iran.

It is a breathtakingly dangerous act.

Some have compared it to Neville Chamberlain’s Munich Accord with Nazi Germany, but that doesn’t fully illustrate the danger.  In this case, we are talking about a rogue state with all of Nazi Germany’s genocidal intentions – but this time armed with nuclear weapons.

In its preamble, the agreement asserts that Iran will comply with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that it signed long ago.  Wait a minute.  If it had obeyed this treaty, we wouldn’t be having this discussion to begin with, would we?

The fact is that Iran has a well-established and consistent record of routinely violating international law.  Its intention to acquire nuclear weapons is obvious.

The immediate effect of the President’s action is to release hundreds of billions of dollars of direct and indirect resources to Iran with which it can pursue its military and terrorist activities – activities that aren’t even addressed in this agreement.  It is sobering to consider that Iran’s extensive terrorist operations – which reportedly now reach to South America – are about to get a huge infusion of cash.

But lifting the sanctions does far more damage than merely to release resources to this outlaw regime to kill Israelis and Americans – as its leader vowed to do again just last week.

The sanctions were having a major impact in destabilizing the regime according to all of the Iranian expatriates I’ve talked with.  Relieving those sanctions undermines what had been a rapidly building uprising against the regime from within.

Over the last several years, the Iranian opposition has grown dramatically for two reasons: there is a strong and growing perception among the Iranian people that the Iranian dictatorship was a pariah in the international community; and that the resulting international economic sanctions had created conditions that make the regime’s overthrow imperative.  That is, until Barack Obama blundered onto the scene.

This agreement cannot be verified.  We are now learning that the 24/7 access to inspections the President promised does not exist.  Under the agreement, the regime can stall any inspection for many weeks or even months.

The President’s promise that violations will result in a snapback of sanctions is also completely empty.  Restoring U.N. sanctions would require the assent of China and Russia, something much less likely given our rapidly deteriorating relations with them.

And even IF Iran scrupulously abided by every detail of the agreement, they can continue to run centrifuges for low-level enrichment, continue their research and development of advanced centrifuges, continue their heavy water research and within eight years, acquire Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles.  That means, even under this agreement, within a decade, Iran will have nuclear break-out capability and the launch vehicles to deliver those weapons anywhere in the world, with the solemn vow of its government to wipe Israel and the United States off the map.

Indeed, just last week, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff warned, “under no circumstances should we relieve pressure on Iran relative to ballistic missile capabilities and arms trafficking.”  Yet a week later, that’s exactly what this agreement does.

The President says there is no alternative.  That is utter nonsense.  The sanctions were working.  The domestic resistance to this Islamic-fascist dictatorship mustered over 100,000 Iranian expatriates at its annual meeting in Paris this year.   This movement desperately needs the moral and material support of our nation to bring down this regime from within.  That is what this administration has denied them.

Last month, I fear the Congress became complicit in this agreement by adopting a completely extra-constitutional process for ratification which was a sham.  Instead of a 2/3 vote of the Senate to approve treaties, it requires an almost impossible 2/3 of both houses to reject it as an agreement.  But at this moment in time, there is nothing more important to the world than that 2/3 of this Congress repudiates this dangerous folly.

Despite all the indignities, retreats and self-inflicted wounds our country has endured these past six and a half years, the freedom-loving people of the world still look to us for leadership and support.  We are still what Lincoln called the last best hope of mankind.

It is now imperative that Congress now rise to the occasion.

A Munich-Sized Mistake

House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. – September 9, 2015

Mr. Speaker:

In 48 hours, the House will vote on a resolution to stop the Iran Nuclear Treaty.   I know the President chooses not to call it a treaty, but it IS a treaty in everything but name, with international ramifications as great as any treaty Congress has ever considered.  Because treaties have profound implications to the life of this nation, the Constitution requires they be ratified by a 2/3 vote of the Senate.  Yet in this post-constitutional era of Obama’s America, it now requires 2/3 of both houses to reject it.

Every Republican in both houses has taken a stand against it.  So rejection or ratification now rests solely on whether enough Democrats are willing to place country ahead of party on a matter of the gravest consequence to world peace.

I don’t think anyone can dispute the immediate effects of this treaty:

  • $150 billion in frozen assets will be released to a regime whose leaders daily reiterate their intention to wage war on Israel and the United States.  These funds will be available to finance Iran’s military and terrorist activities and nuclear ambitions.
  • Although the agreement purports to halt production of fissile material, it gives Iran the legal right to continue its research and development of advanced centrifuges – the only purpose of which is to produce nuclear weapons.
  • It gives them legal access to traffic in conventional arms in five years and ICBM technology in eight years – something that Obama’s own chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said should be done “under no circumstances” — just a week before the treaty was announced.

Does anyone deny that the nation most immediately imperiled by a nuclear Iran – our ally, Israel – is united in its opposition to this treaty?  Israeli political parties are among the most fractured and disputatious in the world, and yet they stand united on this issue.

Does anyone deny that the Iranian regime is notorious for not honoring its treaty obligations?  Indeed, Iran signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and has violated it ever since — which is why we are now debating this treaty.   Verification, therefore, must be the central focus of any treaty with this regime – yet under its very terms, spot inspections can be delayed for weeks or even months if the regime objects.   More recently, we have learned that under secret side-agreements the administration had no intention of sharing, inspections of the most important nuclear sites are to be conducted by the Iranians themselves.  This provision alone guarantees that history will ridicule this treaty as the pinnacle of naivety.

So I ask my Democratic colleagues, why?  Why would anyone who values peace support this treaty?

The only answer I hear is that it reduces the chance of war in the next few years, or in Neville Chamberlain’s words, guarantees “peace in our time”.

Does anyone really believe this?  This treaty gives Israel the Hobson’s choice of launching a pre-emptive strike or ramping up its own nuclear program.  The Saudis and Egyptians have already made clear this agreement gives them no alternative than to initiate their own nuclear programs.  And it catastrophically undermines the Iranian democratic opposition at just the time the regime was faltering from within.

Ironically, Mr. Obama tacitly concedes the destabilizing effect of this treaty by following it up with pledges for vastly increasing military aid to Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.  If he really believed this treaty stabilizes the region, why would it need a new infusion of arms?

I appeal to my Democratic colleagues to consider the ramifications of this vote.  The constitutional concerns are huge – this sets a dangerous precedent that essentially rescinds the Treaty Clause of the Constitution – a precedent they might live to regret under Republican administrations.

But a far more immediate danger is the chain of events this treaty could set off in the Middle East and quickly spread throughout the world.   This treaty bolsters the Iranian regime from within, infuses it with $150 billion with which to finance its nuclear ambitions, gives it the legal right and guaranteed timetable to pursue nuclear war and cannot be verified through inspections.  Iran has made crystal clear its intent to destroy Israel and the United States – a threat reiterated yesterday in no uncertain terms by its supreme leader.

History reviles the well-intentioned politicians responsible for the Munich Agreement of 1938 and has condemned their memory to eternal scorn and shame.  History could well look back upon this treaty as the triggering act that led to an unimaginable conflagration.

Retreating from Responsibility

House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. – September 10, 2015

Mr. Speaker:

I rise to express my deep disappointment in the decision by the House leadership to back off from a direct vote on a resolution of disapproval of the Iran Nuclear Accord as provided under the Corker Act.

Clearly the administration has not complied with the requirements of this act to provide Congress with the full text of its agreement with Iran, most specifically the side deals referenced in the agreement between Iran and the IAEA.

House Resolution 411, that declares the administration out of compliance with the Corker Act, is well-founded.

But this is not a valid reason to delay a vote on a resolution disapproving the agreement, as specified in Corker and promised by the House Leadership for the last six weeks.

H. Res. 411 rightly disputes September 17th as the deadline for congressional action to stop this treaty from taking effect, because of the Administration’s failure to disclose these details and I support that resolution.  But it cannot authoritatively settle this dispute.  That leaves the deadline as an open question and this House must not let that deadline pass without definitive action as provided under the Corker Act.

I opposed that act because it guts the Treaty Clause of the Constitution that requires treaties to be ratified by a 2/3 vote of the U.S. Senate.  Despite the President’s contention that this is an agreement and not a treaty – the fact that it explicitly modifies the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty makes it obvious that it requires Senate ratification.

Unfortunately, the Congress overwhelmingly approved the Corker Act, establishing a very different framework with respect to this particular treaty.  Instead of a 2/3 vote of the Senate to ratify it, Corker in essence requires 2/3 of both houses to reject it through a Resolution of Disapproval – an almost impossible threshold.  But these are the rules that Congress made and must now deal with.

Under the Corker Act the Resolution of Disapproval is the specific legal act required to reject this treaty.  This is what the leadership had promised the House would vote on this week.  Until yesterday.

Now, we are to vote on a bill to approve the treaty which is expected to be voted down.  This is designed to have no legal effect, but merely to give members political cover.

Thus, the House will have failed to take action on a Resolution of Disapproval under Corker by the disputed September 17thdeadline.  On that deadline, the President will declare victory, implement the treaty, and the Congress will be left sputtering.  The world will correctly interpret this dereliction as a capitulation by the House to this treaty.   And years from now, maybe, possibly, the courts will intervene to declare the President’s action illegal.  Or maybe not.

Mr. Speaker, the House is right to dispute the September 17th deadline, because clearly the President did not comply with the provisions of Corker and provide the full text of the side agreements to the Congress.

But the House is dead wrong to refuse to take action on the Resolution of Disapproval prior to the disputed deadline.  The House must speak clearly, unambiguously and according to the provisions of the Corker Act that Congress enacted in May.  Once it has taken that action, it can still dispute whether the President’s submission meets the requirements of Corker – but must not leave this momentous question dangling in dispute and unresolved.

The argument we hear for this course is that the Senate is unlikely to take up a Resolution of Disapproval; therefore we should hold the President to the letter of Corker with respect to submitting language.  What the Senate does is up to the Senate.  But for OUR part, the House has a moral obligation to act within the UNDISPUTED time frame to legally reject this dangerous agreement.

There is little doubt that this treaty will trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East – the leaders of Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have already made that abundantly clear.  There is little doubt that it is unverifiable.  There is no doubt that it will release $150 billion of frozen assets to Iran with which to finance its terrorist operations and continue its nuclear research.

I fear this agreement may be just as significant to the fate of the 21st Century as the Munich Agreement was to the 20thCentury.  The American people and the world deserve a clear, unambiguous and INDISUPTABLE act of the House to repudiate it.

What the House leadership is now pursuing falls far short of this moral imperative.