Sunday, September 6, 2015

Rejecting JCPOA

I'd really like to write about something other than the Iran deal. Truly.

But, literally, every day there is some event, comment from a public figure, lunatic column by a "respected" pundit that cannot be ignored.

I have tried, in my own absurdly private way, to express a point of view which has, over the last few weeks, become more cogent and in which I am fully committed. Unlike Gen. Colin Powell, who as time passes becomes a figure I take less and less seriously, who endorsed the JCPOA (the only name by which I will refer to this treaty going forward) on "Meet Chuck Todd" today with the ringing endorsement that it's a "pretty good deal". That just ain't good enough for me.

The JCPOA (or a more effective replacement) should be air tight. Not subject to interpretation. As clear as a winter morning in Alaska when the inside of your nose freezes. Anytime/anywhere inspections that did not exclude American or Canadian inspectors. A definitive snapshot that would chronicle the nature of Iran's military nuclear program before the lifting of sanctions. You know what was promised and the paucity of deliverables.

We are quickly reaching a nexus point that will define - forever - the real willingness of legislators to embrace or reject the very essence of constitutionality. As I have opined before, the Corker-Cardin bill is a legislative anomaly: a stillborn attempt to forge a bipartisan initiative to present the entirety of the JCPOA before Congress and then consent or reject its passage. The president willingly agreed, knowing the outcome could be challenged and vetoed.

But there are several extremely important things we know now that we did not know when the Corker bill passed 98 -1.

First, the bill requires that within five days of an agreement every piece of information be presented to Congress before the passage clock starts ticking. The IAEA "side deals" have not been presented to Congress because they are confidential arrangements negotiated by the Iranians and the UN. We would not even be aware of their existence without Sen. Tom Cotton, the only "no" vote against the Corker bill. That legislation requires that any annexes be provided to Congress. It hasn't happened.

It also requires that the JCPOA only address the Iranian nuclear program. It specifically requires that sanctions in place on its ballistic missile program and its funding of terrorist proxies be excluded. Unfortunately, the JCPOA addresses ballistic missile restrictions and development and there is no mechanism for restricting the repatriated sanctions funds from being funneled to proxies or restricting the use of those funds for the purchase of weaponry for those proxies. So, again, the elements of the Corker bill are violated.

I have argued that the Corker bill should be repudiated. That the JCPOA is as important a treaty as any negotiated - including those with the former Soviet Union - in the post WWII era. It demands to be authorized as Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution requires: with a two thirds affirmative vote of Senators present. Not the House. The Senate. Only.

If this does not occur, then the JCPOA has the same force and effect as an executive order. The president has the authority to move the agreement forward because his authority to conduct foreign affairs is broad. But a new president to be inaugurated in January 2017 is not bound by the executive action of his predecessor and can rescind this agreement on his or her first day in office.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, assuming she's still serving her predominantly Jewish district in Florida after announcing her support of JCPOA today "holding back tears", will kick and scream. Court
challenges will ensue. Flagellation will be threatened. But a new president will have sufficient
standing to rescind the agreement - especially if today's democrats decide, with Obama's encouragement, to filibuster the Corker bill and block any vote - and it will take years for any kind of definitive court ruling.

Would we stand alone? Would we be an international pariah? Would the other signees of JCPOA never do another deal with us because we burned them on Iran? Would the Iranians suddenly come to the conclusion that they could not trust the Great Satan?

The inescapable conclusion is this: if Republicans wish to retain control of the House or Senate or both, they must delegitimize the Corker bill. They must pass a resolution that they will only consider JCPOA as required by Article 2, Section 2 and do so with a simple majority (thank you, one eyed Reed!). Then, the Senate should hold hearings on JCPOA as appropriate before holding a vote on affirmation. If it receives a two thirds vote, it goes into effect. If it does not, it is rejected and no presidential veto can prevent its rejection.

Not unlike the Alice In Wonderland conclusion that Rep. Nadler tried rationalizing after receiving a nonsensical justification from the President, Rep Debbie - chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, let's remember, and key legislator charged with retaking the House and Senate - explained today, "This agreement is not perfect." Gee, it sounds like that genius Gen. Powell. Or that other Master of Foreign Affairs, VP Joe Biden.

Why does every single justification for support of JCPOA start off with a disclaimer about how
imperfect the agreement is?

Are the stakes not high enough that we can't strive for a little less imperfection?

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