A reality check for Iran hawks: The deal is done, and there's little they can do to stop it

How much of a "sell" does Obama really need to make to Congress?

Published July 14, 2015 4:30PM (EDT)

  (Reuters/Adrees Latif/Jason Reed)
(Reuters/Adrees Latif/Jason Reed)

The P5+1 negotiators have reached a deal with Iran to constrain its nuclear program for at least 10 years. This makes for a considerably better state of affairs than one without a deal, in which Iran would have no constraints on its nuclear program for any period of time. That, of course, is just one view. Another view is that President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have hand-delivered Iran an unlimited supply of nuclear weaponry and are actively urging them to obliterate the state of Israel several times over, as has long been the plan of the fifth-column liberal left.

The deal will face a vote in the United Nations and sometime in September an up-or-down vote in Congress. The New York Times describes the sales job there as "an arduous effort." Other outlets are similarly writing about how difficult it will be to get Congress to sign off on this thing, with Chuck Todd and co. at NBC News writing about how these years of difficult negotiations might have been the "easy part," while the "harder part is President Obama selling it to a Republican-controlled Congress."

This sounds like it makes sense, doesn't it? There's gridlock on so much in Congress, and generally in life, that "the Iran deal will have to go through Congress" sounds like an impossible feat. Republicans almost unanimously -- still waiting on that statement, Rand Paul! -- will hate any Iran deal because they hate both President Obama and the concept of diplomacy, and Republicans control Congress. And the completion of the deal presents an opportunity for the various non-Paul presidential candidates to outdo each other in their denunciations of the deal that they have not read. Sen. Ted Cruz disapproves, at length. Sen. Marco Rubio re-ups his pledge to undo the deal when he becomes president and impose meaningless unilateral sanctions. And then there is Sen. Lindsey Graham! Oh, is there ever some Graham action today. Just this morning, in separate interviews, he has called the deal a "death sentence" for and "akin to declaring war" on Israel.

The good news is that it does not matter what Lindsey Graham or Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio or Tom Cotton or really any Republican thinks. All that matters is that 34 senators or 146 members of Congress do support the deal, and Congress will be unable to stop it. Everyone else is free to huff and puff until they lose their voices, and I'm sure they will, and that's fine.

The congressional review process for an Iranian nuclear deal was agreed to under the Corker-Cardin (née Corker-Melendez) bill that passed this spring, granting Congress 30 to 60 days of review followed by votes on resolutions of approval or disapproval. Given the aforementioned total Republican opposition to diplomatic initiatives, there's obviously no chance that an approval resolution goes through. But say a resolution of disapproval that would kill the deal makes it to Obama's desk. He would then pull out this ace move known as the "veto" and veto the dickens out of it. Congress would then need 2/3 support in both chambers of Congress to override his veto, and if they cannot muster that, then the deal slides through. If the 150 House Democrats who signed onto the May letter pledging their support for the deal as it was presented in the April framework stick to their word, then there shouldn't be a problem.

Which is not to say that there won't be pressures. The American-Israeli Political Action Committee, which supported Corker-Cardin and urged hawks not to add poison pill amendments to it that would have eliminated their single, though distant, shot at killing the deal, will now exert all of its formidable influence on members to kill the deal. (Though they will try to do so in a less overtly obnoxious manner, than Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has been doing and will continue to do.) They will have their work cut out for them.

The biggest threat to the success of this deal is not the congressional review process. As with most things, its future rests on the 2016 election and whether we elect a president who's committed to letting the agreement play out in good faith, or one who throws it in the trash on the first day and commits the country towards hastily planned regime change because that sounds more exciting.

By Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

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