Signals from Washington, Tehran, and Vienna indicate that the Biden administration is still considering signing a catastrophically flawed agreement with Iran – one that green-lights an Iranian nuclear arsenal, lets Iran produce intercontinental missiles, and gifts Iran billions of dollars to expand its global reign of terror.
This is a dangerous, “Never again!” moment in world history. Such an agreement would mark the end of nuclear non-proliferation; and it would place Israel under an especially grave risk of nuclear annihilation. But there is one way to avoid this outcome, namely: for the U.S. Senate to assert its Constitutional treaty review power, and to reject this imminent threat to free world’s security.
The U.S. State Department regularly lists Iran as “the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism,” spending nearly a billion dollars annually to “support terrorist groups . . . and expand its malign influence across the globe.” Iranian money and weapons sustain an archipelago of terror throughout the Middle East, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas and Palestine Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, the Houthis in Yemen, and Bashar Assad’s mass murdering regime in Syria.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) also supports a broader network of terror world-wide, including in Germany, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Kenya, Bahrain, and Turkey. It masterminded the 1994 bombing of the Jewish Center in Buenos Aires, murdering 85 and injuring hundreds more. It was the IRGC and its proxies who murdered nearly 300 U.S. Marines and diplomats in Lebanon in the early 1980s, and 19 U.S. servicemen in the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia.
Iran’s Parliament often erupts in chants of “Death to America,” and its leaders regularly organize mass rallies shouting such genocidal chants. And for decades, Iran’s leaders have declared ad nauseum their intent to annihilate Israel, with rhetoric every bit as exterminatory as Nazi Germany’s.
Dissidents under this radical, sectarian regime suffer horrific tortures. Per Iranian political scientist Majid Rafizadeh, these include “slow public hangings-to-death on cranes, amputations of fingers by special guillotines, electric shocks, and rape, in addition to . . . flogging, amputation, [and] beating detainees with cables, sticks, [and] rubber hosepipes . . . .”
It is this same brutal, “Death-to-America”-chanting regime that seeks to finish building both a nuclear weapons arsenal and the missiles to deliver them world-wide. If non-proliferation is to mean anything at all in the modern world, Iran’s drive to acquire such weapons must be stopped – by any and all means possible.
Shockingly, the deal currently being negotiated by the Biden administration in Vienna will do the opposite, providing both a license for an Iranian nuclear breakout and the funds to escalate Iran’s global terror.
Even the prior deal entered by President Obama in 2015 – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA – was deeply flawed. It did nothing to limit Iran’s export of terror across the Middle East, nor to restrain its long-range missile development. Its “sunset” provisions explicitly permitted Iran to build nuclear bombs as of ten years from now. The deal had no effective compliance mechanism, as it banned “no-notice” inspections. And it freed up billions for Iran, which then ramped up its reign of terror across the Middle East.
And by all accounts, the negotiations are producing a much weaker version of the JCPOA. Per ex-National Security Council staffer Richard Goldberg, the new deal not only includes all the above loopholes and sunset terms, but also will “suspend terrorism and missile sanctions on Iran, not just nuclear sanctions. . . [hence] flooding the [IRGC] with cash.” And the various sunset provisions – on nuclear enrichment, missile production, and weapons purchases – will no longer be conditioned on verified compliance. That is, Iran can cheat all it wants and still reap the benefits.
Hence the reality is this: the United States is about to bestow on the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism the funds to rescue that tottering regime, the freedom to expand its pernicious export of terror, and the capacity to complete the construction of a nuclear arsenal. This is why three of America’s Iran deal negotiators resigned in recent months, reportedly appalled by the dangerous concessions made by lead negotiator Robert Malley.
One critical question here is, what will Iran’s Middle East neighbors do once the ink on such a deal dries? Many expect that Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt – all geopolitical rivals of Iran – will immediately commence a rush to obtain nuclear weapons.
Here is the real end game of this imminent geopolitical catastrophe: First, the end of non-proliferation, and the launch of a Middle East nuclear arms race, culminating in a plethora of unstable, Islamist regimes bristling with nuclear weapons. Second, Iran’s having the capacity finally to carry out its decades-long pledge to annihilate Israel, effectively burying the post-Holocaust global commitment to “Never again!”
But there is one way – probably the only way – to avoid this catastrophic end game, and it starts with the U.S. Constitution. Namely, the Treaty Clause, which states in pertinent part: “The President . . . shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur . . . .”
In 2015, President Obama refused to follow the Constitution’s Treaty Clause when he committed the United States to the terms of the JCPOA. This time, when President Biden’s team attempts to commit the United States to an even weaker JCPOA, the Senate needs to insist that the Constitution be followed. Absent two-thirds of the Senate’s support, the deal will be rejected – as it well deserves to be.
And here is the question for Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy: Will you insist that President Biden follow the Constitution? Or will you ignore that sacred legal trust, and give a pass to a Middle East nuclear nightmare? The world awaits your answers.
Henry Kopel of New Haven is an author and former federal prosecutor.