Republicans should wait to enact new sanctions on Iran, both because President Obama is correct that it’s not worth rocking the boat at this point and because to do so would alleviate Obama of blame should his negotiations fail.
It’s very simple: Enact sanctions now and the minute talks collapse, Obama will blame Congress for what will mostly be his screwup – he’s on his third deadline – saying everything was going great and they were just about get a deal until Evil Republicans got in the way.
And Obama is right, new sanctions could in fact blow up the deal. I have little confidence in any agreement Obama might negotiate. But given how bad things could be were there a war, it’s worth seeing the process through.
But Republicans are right in that the mullahs be forced to negotiate with a gun to the cranium.
As Iran expert Matthew Kroenig notes in National Review, the deadline for a “framework” for a deal is March 1, just six weeks away. To put the pressure on, Congress need only signal its intention to enact sanctions on March 2 if a deal is not reached.
Furthermore, the administration should by that point state that it plans to submit the agreement to Congress, as required under the Constitution. Should the Obama fail to agree, the Congress should review the framework and enact sanctions if it doesn’t like what it sees.
For the final agreement, including “technical details,” which is due July 1 – lather, rinse, repeat: Sanctions July 2 if there’s no deal. If there is, prepare to either consider it in the Senate or, if Obama says he won’t submit it, stage a de facto “advice and consent” vote by offering a bill to enact new sanctions. No treaties without Senate authorization.
Meantime, do all the grunt work necessary to make sure approvable legislation – hopefully by a veto-proof margin – is ready to go.
Here’s Obama today previewing the rhetoric he will spit out toward Capitol Hill if Congress passes sanctions. He charges that Congress could get us into a war.
If he’s forced by the lack of a deal to consider military action, “Congress will have to own that as well,” Obama warns darkly.