WASHINGTON – The Obama administration is reportedly making feverish attempts to strike what critics consider a potentially disastrous nuclear agreement with Iran, and Congress not only may be powerless to stop the deal, lawmakers have no one to blame but themselves, according to a leading analyst of Islam and terrorism.
The New York Times reported many in the White House believe an agreement designed to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons would be the most important foreign policy accomplishment of the Obama presidency. But if a deal is struck, the paper said, Obama will do everything in his power to avoid letting Congress vote on it.
The Times revealed a secret Treasury Department study concluded the president can suspend most of the sanctions currently imposed on Iran without a congressional vote. Many critics contend removing the sanctions would only boost Iran’s covert attempt to develop nuclear weapons, regardless of what promises the Islamic republic might make.
Who gave the president the power to bypass Congress?
Congress did, according to Andrew C. McCarthy, political analyst, best-selling author, former adviser to the deputy secretary of defense and former assistant U.S. attorney in New York.
“The fact of the matter is that, in enacting the sanctions, Congress explicitly afforded the president wide discretion to waive their terms based on his assessment of the national interest,” McCarthy told WND.
Technically, only Congress can permanently end the sanctions on Iran. But given the considerable wiggle room Congress has given the president, McCarthy indicated it would not be surprising to see Obama effectively attempt that.
“While a president cannot unilaterally repeal them, he has broad power to refrain from enforcing them,” McCarthy said. “We know from experience that Mr. Obama has declined to enforce laws that do not endow him with that kind of discretion, so there is every reason to expect non-enforcement where Congress has undeniably given him that power.”
Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, told WND that Obama isn’t seizing executive power.
“Congress is handing it to him with a bow on it,” he said.
WND contacted a number of lawmakers seeking comment, but most were perhaps not inclined to acknowledge having given Obama unilateral authority on such a sensitive and important issue.
Stockman, who is leaving Congress at the end of his term, pulled no punches.
“The reason we’re seeing an increasingly imperial presidency is because a timid Congress is more than happy to let the White House make all decisions,” the congressman said.
And by cutting itself out of the loop, Congress essentially did the same to the public when Capitol Hill leaders made a deal with Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Smith to avoid giving public testimony on negotiations. Instead, she gave classified briefings to key committees.
The administration apparently wants to bypass Congress and keep negotiations out of public view because, according to the Times, Obama’s advisers believe they would lose a vote by lawmakers on permanently ending sanctions, even if the Democrats retain control of the Senate in November elections.
Not only are lawmakers now worried they will be bypassed in approving a deal, they are concerned the administration will make a bad deal.
Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said: “If a potential deal does not substantially and effectively dismantle Iran’s illicit nuclear weapons program, I expect Congress will respond. An agreement cannot allow Iran to be a threshold nuclear state.”
The Democrat sponsored a bill to increase sanctions if the administration does not strike a deal with Iran by a negotiating deadline of Nov. 24.
Referring to the 2010 vote that put the sanctions in place, Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., said, “Congress will not permit the president to unilaterally unravel Iran sanctions that passed the Senate in a 99 to 0 vote.”
Congress has reason to fear that scenario because, the Times reports, negotiations have focused intently on how sanctions would be suspended. And, as the paper also notes, sanctions are the greatest leverage the U.S. has in attempting to force Iranian compliance.
The White House disputed the Times report Monday, with National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan calling it “preposterous” and “incorrect.”
“Why would we ever, ever, ever agree to lift all Iran-U.S. sanctions [in the first phase of a deal]?” protested Meehan. “It makes no sense.”
However, she avoided directly answering whether the White House had attempted to obtain authorization from the Treasury Department to suspend some sanctions as part of a deal with Iran.
Instead, she said, “It is too soon to say what mix of executive and legislative action there would be.”
Traditionally, Congress would have to approve a deal lifting sanctions, because, as McCarthy noted, “In principle, if an international agreement imposes burdens on the United States, it should be regarded as a treaty and subjected to the Constitution’s requirements — including that it cannot be ratified without super-majority (two-thirds) support in the Senate.
“But it is difficult if not impossible to insist that this principle be honored if Congress has already empowered the president to act unilaterally,” he added.
And the power Congress has bestowed on the president would apparently allow him to unilaterally suspend the sanctions rather than technically end them.
Perhaps not surprisingly, a suspension of sanctions is something the Iranians have indicated they would accept.
McCarthy indicated there is an ominous reason the Iranians would agree: It would effectively give them what they want.
“[T]he Iranians are likely to be very content with a presidential waiver rather than full congressional repeal of the sanctions,” he said. “If, as is highly likely, the impending deal gets Iran within the flip of a switch of having nuclear weapons capability, the chance that sanctions would be fully reimposed again when Obama leaves office more than two years from now is remote.”
Klein reported WND has obtained a document prepared by Saudi Arabia’s intelligence organization that states, as expected, Iran would be allowed to maintain a civilian nuclear infrastructure.
However, the New York Times also warns: “Western nations will still allow Iran enough nuclear material to assemble weapons within months if Tehran decides to abrogate the agreement at any time.”
Additionally, the document has determined the U.S. and other Western powers currently negotiating with Iran — the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China and Russia– are willing to reach an agreement with Tehran at any price before next month’s deadline.
Also worried about that prospect is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Jerusalem Post reported the U.S. would agree to a deal that would leave Iran with 5,000 centrifuges, the machines used to process nuclear fuel.
One centrifuges is too many for Netanyahu, who told President Obama the risk is too great.
When Netanyahu and Obama met in the Oval Office Oct. 1, the Israeli leader implored the president to require Iran to dismantle all of its centrifuges as a requirement for lifting sanctions.
“Iran seeks a deal that would lift the tough sanctions that you worked so hard to put in place and leave it as a threshold nuclear power,” the prime minister told the president. “I fervently hope that under your leadership that would not happen.”
A senior U.S. officia said recently: “We will consider a very limited enrichment program for peaceful purposes that is highly monitored for a substantial period of time.”
But Iran has no need for centrifuges, the Israeli prime minister maintained.
“They say we want civilian nuclear energy. Well, so does Canada, Indonesia, Mexico, Sweden. Seventeen countries that have civilian nuclear energy and they don’t have a single centrifuge, because you really need centrifuges not for civilian energy, but to make bombs,” Netanyahu told CNN earlier this month.
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