Congress should have a say in US-Iran nuclear weapons deal

As I traveled throughout our great state last year, I heard repeatedly how worried Alaskans were about national security. From the growth and brutality of ISIS and a resurgent Russia waging war in the heart of Europe, to a steady march by Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, Alaskans recognized the unprecedented challenges threatening our country.

They sensed what former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger recently put into words during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing: “The United States has not faced a more diverse and complex array of crises since the end of the Second World War.”

To be sure, the Obama Administration is not to blame for all of this. But its policies of “leading from behind” certainly have contributed to the chaos in international affairs.

Nowhere is this more apparent than with the Obama Administration’s policies toward Iran. Weakness is provocative, and Iran — which still views America as the “Great Satan” — has aggressively expanded its influence throughout the Middle East as a result of the lack of resolve shown by the Obama Administration.

Iran is not just another country. It is the biggest sponsor of state terrorism in the world, whose leaders continue to express the genocidal goal of “wiping Israel off the map.” With a nuclear bomb, they’d have the means to do so. It is also the country responsible for the maiming and killing of thousands of American soldiers and Marines in Iraq by supplying Shiite militias there with the most sophisticated and lethal IEDs on the battlefield, something I witnessed in 2005-06 during my active-duty military assignment as a staff officer to the commanding general of U.S. Central Command.

In short: Iran‘s leaders are declared enemies of the U.S. with the blood of American soldiers on their hands. Yet it’s these leaders that the Obama Administration — since the beginning of its tenure in Washington — has spent considerable time wooing and making concessions to in its nuclear negotiations.

It started in 2009, when young Iranian demonstrators, students and other opponents of Iran’s theocracy, courageously filled the streets of Tehran, denouncing the regime and begging for freedom in what was called the “Green Revolution.” Yet, the Obama Administration stood back and did nothing because, apparently, the President didn’t want to offend the mullahs.

It’s a pattern that’s continued for years with the secret nuclear negotiations the Obama Administration has been undertaking with Iran, which first involved lifting economic sanctions placed on the regime by Congress. Early goals of the nuclear negotiations — to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and the capacity to build it — have been jettisoned. Now, the emphasis appears to be on containment.

All of this has been happening as Iran has dramatically increased its influence across the Middle East. Capitals as diverse as Baghdad, Sana’a, Damascus and Beirut, are either friendly to, or taking orders from Tehran.

And recently we’ve learned that Obama Administration has been telling Iran’s leaders in secret talks that the U.S. Congress will have no role in approving any nuclear deal, but the United Nations would.

This should alarm all Alaskans: on one of the most significant national security issues facing America in a generation — whether Iran obtains a nuclear weapon — we are leaving the decision solely to the judgement of John Kerry and Barack Obama.

This would reverse important bipartisan precedent. For decades, major civilian nuclear and arms control agreements — including most recently with the United Arab Emirates and India — have regularly been brought before the Congress for its approval. Not bringing the deal before the Senate would likely violate the Constitution’s advice and consent clause for treaties, adding to a long list of Obama Administration federal overreach which ignores the separation of powers.

And it’s a tactic that lacks strategic sense.

Our country is strongest in foreign affairs when the Executive Branch pursues agreements that are strongly backed by the Congress. As an assistant secretary of state in the Bush Administration who worked to economically isolate Iran, I saw firsthand how the threat of congressional sanctions strongly discouraged our European allies from investing in Iran.

Indeed, Congress’s additional sanctions on Iran in 2011 were what brought the mullahs to the negotiating table about its nuclear program in the first place. But now our president and John Kerry are telling Iran’s leaders not to worry about the views of the U.S. Congress because they’ll have no role in approving any final nuclear deal.

This is the context in which I joined 46 other U.S. Senators in signing an open letter placed on the internet to Iran’s leaders that informed them that Congress must approve any nuclear agreement for it to have a lasting effect.

The letter was not intended to scuttle a nuclear arms deal with Iran, as some have claimed. Rather, it was written to ensure that the American people, through their representatives in Congress, get to weigh-in in a meaningful way on this critical national security issue. And while critics have howled loudly, they have yet to answer the critical issue raised by the letter: Should the American people through the Congress be allowed to vote on the nuclear weapons deal between the Obama Administration and the world’s largest terrorist regime?

My answer is clearly yes. Fortunately, there is a growing bipartisan group of Senators who agree.

This is a welcome change from a previous Senate majority that rarely challenged Obama’s policies even though Congress — as a co-equal branch of government — has significant responsibilities for national defense and foreign policy under the Constitution. Moreover, many of my Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle agree, as do I, that the Obama Administration is setting up a false dichotomy when it claims that we only have a choice between accepting the Obama-Iranian deal — whatever the terms might be — or war.

There is another avenue that has already proved highly effective. We could ratchet up sanctions against Iran—increasing pressure on its leaders — until we get a deal that requires Iran to renounce terrorism and prevents it from obtaining the bomb.

By:  Sen. Dan Sullivan
Source: Juneau Empire