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No Way the Next President Keeps the Iran Deal


It’s the sort of news that we who follow the so-called “Iran Deal” have come to expect as par for the course: the Obama administration keeps the facts about the deal secret from the American people, at least until after a major election. The Weekly Standard brings to light the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) report on Iran’s heavy water violations was “sandbagged” by the administration, in order to prevent Americans from learning about it until the election was over. We discussed those violations, as well as exactly what heavy water is and why it matters, in a lengthy explainer last week. In short, there is almost no reason to want heavy water except to cool the kind of reactors that produce large quantities of plutonium, which is one of two kinds of material that can be used to build thermonuclear weapons. Iran’s violation of these limits is pretty solid proof that they are intending not just to skirt the limits of a deal on nuclear power, but that they intend specifically to pursue nuclear weapons of the most dangerous sort.

That the Obama administration conspired to keep the violation secret is also very much in keeping with its handling of this whole business. Ben Rhodes, advisor to the President on national security, went well out of his way to build what he called an “echo chamber” made up of 26-year-old journalists who knew nothing of nuclear physics, military science, or diplomacy. Aided by a set of Iranian lobbyists and fake think tanks, he was able to spin these journalists on every question critical of the President’s proposals. He was able to make the false seem true, and the true seem false, like a modern day Protagoras. Though in time the lies were bound to come out, the fact that the lies were part of an intentional strategy to deceive the American people and the American Congress might have remained hidden except for the boyish pride in Rhodes’ heart. That hubris caused him to boast of his accomplishment to a career liberal journalist, who laid the scheme bare in what ought to have been the end of Rhodes’ career — and possibly the President’s as well.

Now, as former intelligence officer Fred Fleitz spells out, the President is rejoined by his ‘echo chamber’ allies to try to sell a new theory: the new President has no authority to renegotiate the deal, as it is binding as a point of international law.

Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif was one of the first to insist as much, claiming a Trump administration cannot back out of the nuclear deal because it is not a bilateral agreement between the United States and Iran but “an international understanding annexed to a Security Council resolution.”

Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council (which The Weekly Standard’s Lee Smith once described as “the tip of the spear of the Iran lobby” in the United States) echoed Zarif’s statement. In a November 11 Foreign Policy article, he argued Trump can undermine the Iran deal but cannot directly dismantle it because the JCPOA is a multilateral agreement “codified by the UN Security Council.” Any attempt by a Trump administration to renegotiate the deal would violate international law and isolate the United States, Parsi said.

Nonsense, argues Fleitz, laying out a substantive criticism of the deal as having any standing to bind the future President. But more can be said. The Iran Deal went well beyond a simple agreement on nuclear proliferation, and waived weapons-purchase sanctions and weakened restrictions on Iran’s testing of nuclear delivery systems as well. It was nothing short of a treaty, in other words, and a treaty is subject to special restrictions under the United States Constitution, Article II. The President may not enter into a treaty with a foreign power without the advice and consent of 2/3rds of the Senate. The Senate itself has no Constitutional power to waive this standard. The Corker-Cardin law, which inverted the standard, is itself blatantly unconstitutional. It cannot be binding on a future administration.

More, the Senate never even took the vote on whether or not to object thanks to a minority filibuster. No vote was ever taken by the Senate on whether or not to approve the deal.

Finally, the terms of the Corker-Cardin law were not even minimally satisfied. The law specifically required the administration to turn over all of the deal for Congress to consider, including any side deals. The terms of the IAEA’s side deal with Iran were never reported to Congress. Thus, the law was not only unconstitutional, it was violated by the administration even had it been valid.

The incoming administration cannot be bound by an unconstitutional act. Nor should it be bound to such a “deal” as this one, which fails to meet even the most minimal criteria for the protection of America’s interests. Whoever the next President happened to be, he or she would have to revisit the “deal.”

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