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Next Hurdle for Iran Deal: AIPAC’s Plan B (Endorsed by Post)

Having lost the Iran deal vote, AIPAC and hawkish outlets like the Washington Post are moving to support other measures aimed at preventing broader cooperation between the United States and Iran.

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AIPAC’s Plan B—codified in the “Iran Policy Oversight Act of 2015” of Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD)—is now definitely in the cards (pun intended) and will pose the next major obstacle to the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action (JCPOA) between Iran and the P5+1. Those who are focusing on what the Republicans are planning, such as the ludicrous idea of suing the president for allegedly failing to submit to Congress an agreement between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran, are missing the point. The game now is to presume unanimous Republican support for any bill that the White House opposes and to get a sufficient number of Democrats who are nervous about their vote on Thursday to sign on to something approximating Cardin’s bill, including at least a couple of its numerous “poison pills,” to ensure a veto-proof majority.

Note, for example, AIPAC’s “victory” statement to its membership after Thursday’s vote (a good example of trying hard to squeeze lemonade out of lemons) in which it looks forward to what it calls:

Future Legislation: By achieving the largest possible bipartisan rejection of this deal, and by ensuring that even those who supported the deal were aware of its weaknesses, we established the strongest possible foundation for future congressional action. Iran’s past and current behavior shows the continued danger of the threat. We will now work with Congress on a broad agenda to respond to the dangers posed by this agreement: (1) to establish congressional oversight and monitoring of the agreement; (2) to take steps to clarify our commitments to our allies and strengthen our ability to enforce the agreement; (3) to develop a new strategy working with Israel and our Arab allies to counter Iranian aggression in the region; and (4) to enhance Israel’s security and deepen the vital U.S.-Israel strategic partnership.

This statement is entirely consistent with Cardin’s bill despite AIPAC’s insistence all last week to inquiring reporters that it had nothing to do with that “Iran Policy Oversight Act of 2015” draft summary that we published on September 3.

Now comes The Washington Post‘s lead editorial in its Sunday print edition, “Next Steps On Iran.” Although the Post supported the JCPOA as the least bad of the alternatives, its hyper-interventionist, often neocon/liberal-hawk editorial board is now speaking favorably about Cardin’s legislation, including such “poison polls” as imposing new sanctions for Iran’s support for Hezbollah or “sponsorship of a terrorist attack on a U.S. target,” not to mention delivery of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) to the Israelis so they can presumably attack Iran’s Fordow facility. Here are some of the Post’s less-than-helpful ideas:

The measures that could be included in a post-deal package start with a clarification of U.S. intent regarding Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon. Congress can make clear that Mr. Obama or his successor will have support for immediate U.S. military action if an Iranian attempt to build a bomb is detected. One trigger could be verification that Tehran is producing highly enriched uranium; another would be the resumption of work on warhead designs and materials. Such a statement by Congress could not be binding, but it would tell Iran and U.S. allies in the region that the nuclear deal has not taken the U.S. military option off the table.

Other steps could be aimed at deterring Iran from using the billions it will gain from the lifting of sanctions to step up its support for Hezbollah, the Assad regime in Syria and other proxies. Tehran is claiming that the accord prevents the United States from reimposing sanctions in the future. But Congress can make clear that new sanctions can and will be adopted for non-nuclear offenses, such as weapons deliveries to Hezbollah or sponsorship of a terrorist attack on a U.S. target.

Legislation can also mandate new U.S. support for Israel. A 10-year security agreement, due to expire within three years, could be renewed and expanded; Congress could support the delivery to Israel of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, a bomb developed to destroy an Iranian nuclear facility buried under a mountain.

The greatest risks of the nuclear accord are that Iran will seek a bomb in spite of the constraints it accepted and that it will escalate its attempt to establish hegemony over the Middle East by force. While Congress can’t now overturn the deal, it can pragmatically address both of these threats.

Amid all the talk about how Bibi and AIPAC and the Israel lobby (and the Saudis) were decisively defeated in the Senate on Thursday, this is a very useful reminder that it was one battle—albeit a very important one—in a long war being waged by the above-mentioned three against any possible détente, let alone rapprochement—or, God forbid, any actual cooperation—between Washington and Tehran. And they still have an influential ally in the editorial board of the U.S. capital’s major newspaper.

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