President Barack Obama’s supporters and the members of the international diplomatic community, all of whom are often more committed to preserving the supremacy and viability of “The Process” than they are the peace, are cautiously exuberant over the prospect of even a flawed nuclear accord with Iran. Their tempered joy stands in stark contrast to the jubilant victory laps in which the Islamic Republic’s leadership has indulged. The deal’s supporters contend that the administration’s efforts to neutralize the threat posed by an Iranian nuclear weapon, even if that means surrendering virtually all leverage over the terror-supporting state in the process, has the public’s support. This is, however, a superficial reading of the polls. The public can and should be mobilized against this deal, and the Democratic and Republican members of Congress wracked with pangs of conscience over the legacy they’re bequeathing future generations should cultivate that dissent. Those members of Congress who support this deal (or, more accurately, support the president’s pursuit of a legacy achievement) deserve a long, hot summer of confrontation with angry constituents. But they will not face one without sustained and intense pressure on the public.
“Americans mostly approve of the outline of the Iran nuclear deal and don’t want Congress to block it,” read the lead paragraph in the Huffington Post’s review of the political environment in the immediate aftermath of the framework agreement with Iran released in April. It was a typically shallow reading of the polling data. This should not spook lawmakers into believing there is broad support for a “bad deal” with Iran that Barack Obama once promised the country he would reject.
The poll the Huffington Post cited, conducted by Hart Research on behalf of the liberal organization Americans United for Change, found significant support for an Iran deal that would avoid war. “The only real alternative to this agreement would be military action and American involvement in another Middle Eastern war,” read the statement to which respondents were asked to react. In opposition to the Iran deal, the only consequence to which respondents were asked to react was the prospect that Iran might develop a fissionable device. This is junk data; the consequences are far more dire than that.
Another Washington Post/ABC News survey from the same period, a poll with a sample 33 percent Democratic to 20 percent Republican, found 59 percent of respondents back lifting “major economic sanctions against Iran” if a deal made it “harder” for the Islamic Republic to produce a bomb. There’s just one problem: 59 percent of respondents in that same poll do not believe any agreement with Iran would prevent it from building a fissionable device if it was determined to do so. Given that the present deal allows Iran to respect the Non-Proliferation Treaty at its discretion and imposes on Tehran an inspections regime that is laughably weak and based only on mutual consent, those in that 59 percent were prescient.
The fear shared by members of the voting public that decades of documented Iranian duplicity will not magically evaporate overnight has not abated in the months that elapsed since the framework deal was announced. A Monmouth University poll released on Tuesday revealed that the public’s well-deserved skepticism that Iran will not honor its word has remained virtually static. “55 percent said that they did ‘not at all’ trust Iran to abide by terms of a nuclear agreement that would dismantle its program and allow for independent inspections,” Politico reported. “Just 5 percent said they trust Iran ‘a lot,’ and 35 percent said they trust Iran ‘a little.’”
Those members of Congress on the left and the right who are opposed to this faith-based initiative have ample ammunition to reinforce the public’s skepticism. The verification regime is an embarrassment, embargos on arms and ballistic missiles will be lifted, and it is a fantasy to believe that the onerous sanctions regime loathed in Europe will automatically “snap back” in the event Iranian cheating is, by some miracle, unambiguously confirmed.
Proponents of this nuclear accord contend, sneeringly, that the only alternative to their deal is war with Iran – an outcome the public desperately hopes to avoid. In reality, this accord is what will make war more likely. Air Force General Paul Selva, Obama’s nominee to serve as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Senate Armed Services hearing on Tuesday that relaxed sanctions on Iran will provide it with more resources to fund terrorism through its state-sponsored proxies. The regime has been inexorably strengthened and legitimized by its dealings with the West, and Washington in particular, and it has no incentive to dismantle its bomb-making capabilities. If the West doesn’t lead the way, Israel will.
In the meantime, the families of those Americans who remain hostages in Iran who were sacrificed by the P5+1 negotiators on the altar of a deal are begging their fellow Americans to keep them in their thoughts. While administration negotiators and Western officials are erecting straw men to justify their equivocations and praying that Iranian celebrations don’t make the evening news, the families of the four Americans in Iranian custody weep.
In a fortuitous twist, the negotiation process lasted just long enough to compel the administration to give Congress 60 rather than a mere 30 days in order to review the deal. Through much of that time, members of the federal legislature will be enjoying the August recess at home with their constituents. Those who are opposed to this deal should use that time to ensure their colleagues who support it are confronted by a host of angry constituents far more aggressive than anything Democrats endured during the debate over the Affordable Care Act. This approach might not yield veto-proof majorities in Congress, but it would be righteously justified.