We would have loved to have been a fly on the wall of the room in which Secretary of State John Kerry met Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir last week. The Saudis haven’t exactly kept quiet about their opposition to granting Iran any latitude in its pursuit of a nuclear bomb, and one can only wonder whether Mr. Kerry made any progress in easing those misgivings – or whether his Saudi counterpart had any effect on Mr. Kerry’s thinking.
It’s interesting to note that a few days after that meeting, the secretary of state said in an interview with Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television that he found statements made on Saturday by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to be “very disturbing” and “very troubling.”
The ayatollah vowed to defy American policy in the region despite the nuclear deal because that policy is “180 degrees” opposed to Iran’s, and his remarks were delivered amid chants of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”
The fact is, the statement Mr. Kerry now says he finds so “very troubling” echoes what the ayatollah was saying in the final weeks of the nuclear negotiations. Yet the Obama administration never betrayed any weakening of its faith in the efficacy of an agreement with Iran, despite opposition from Israel and several Gulf states including Saudi Arabia.
Mr. Kerry may or may not be genuinely disturbed and troubled by the Iranian leader’s continued belligerence. With the deal completed, that’s not even a matter of concern anymore. The task at hand is for Congress to fully explore the agreement and, hopefully, a veto-proof majority will agree with those of us who believe the deal represents a clear pathway to a nuclear Iran that will inordinately empower that rogue state; trigger attempts by Sunni states to secure nuclear weapons to counter the incipient nuclear Shiite Iran; undermine the security interests of the United States; and create an unprecedented threat to Israel.
There are certain aspects of the proposed deal that readily present themselves for congressional exploration:
* Should U.S. participation in the agreement with Iran have invoked the treaty-making powers of the Senate – thereby requiring Senate approval – rather than come under the rubric of presidential executive power not necessarily subject to congressional approval?
* Will the practical expiration of the deal after approximately ten years mean that, conceptually, Iran at some point in time will effectively be free of any restraints to pursue nuclear weapons?
* Is the plan for the lifting of sanctions sufficiently tied to Iranian performance so as to serve as an incentive for compliance?
* Will the release to Iran of tens of billions of formerly frozen dollars enhance the country’s facilitation of terror?
* Is the planned inspection regime adequate to the task of detecting Iranian violations, or will it invite violations?
* Are the restrictions placed on activities at Iranian nuclear facilities the functional equivalent of the facilities being required to close down, as initially envisioned?
* How realistic are the restrictions on Iran’s stockpiling of fissionable materials?
* Are the estimates of so-called break out times reality based ?
* Should the matter of Iranian support for terrorism in the Middle East and elsewhere have been excluded from the negotiations, and did such exclusion signal future acquiescence?
But there is an additional dimension to the Iran agreement that we hope Congress will consider. For an agreement of such moment, the administration made a significant number of changes in its game plan as the negotiations played out. Those changes seem to point to what even the president and secretary of state must believe are weaknesses – or at least sore points – in what was achieved in the agreement.