Iran ag­gres­sion since nuke deal a 2016 headache for Democrats

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY VA­LERIE RICHARD­SON

For any Demo­crat anx­ious to see the un­pop­u­lar Iran nu­clear agree­ment fade from pub­lic view be­tween now and Novem­ber 2016, it’s been a rough cou­ple of weeks.

Head­lines about the GOP Sen­ate’s failed bat­tle to stop the Joint Com­pre­hen­sive Plan of Ac­tion had all but dis­ap­peared when Iran launched an Oct. 11 test of an in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile. Sud­denly foes of the deal were back in the news, ac­cus­ing Iran of break­ing the agree­ment.

The White House and Iran coun­tered that the launch did not vi­o­late the nu­clear deal be­cause it does not in­clude mis­sile test­ing. Even so, a group of Sen­ate Democrats re­sponded with a let­ter to Sec­re­tary of State John F. Kerry de­nounc­ing Iran’s move as a vi­o­la­tion of U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tion 1929 and call­ing for “uni­lat­eral and mul­ti­lat­eral re­sponses.”

“There must be no am­bi­gu­ity in our will­ing­ness to en­force Iran’s obli­ga­tions un­der UN res­o­lu­tions and the JCPOA,” said the Oct. 21 let­ter signed by 11 Demo­cratic sen­a­tors.

Only two of those — Sens. Benjamin L. Cardin of Mary­land and Charles E. Schumer of New York — voted against the deal.

The episode ex­em­pli­fies a worst-case sce­nario for Democrats as they head into next year’s elec­tion, namely that Iran will give Repub­li­cans am­ple “I-toldyou-so” op­por­tu­ni­ties by break­ing the agree­ment, vi­o­lat­ing other in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions or keep­ing the is­sue in the pub­lic eye with re­cur­ring acts of ag­gres­sion or anti-U.S. rhetoric.

House Com­mit­tee on For­eign Af­fairs Chair­man Ed­ward R. Royce weighed in af­ter the for­mal adop­tion of the nu­clear agree­ment on Oct. 18, known as Adop­tion Day, by tick­ing off a list of Iran’s re­cent trans­gres­sions, in­clud­ing Ira­nian Gen. Qasem Soleimani’s travel to Moscow in vi­o­la­tion of sanc­tions.

“It’s sure tough to look at Iran’s ac­tions over the last three months — let alone 35 years — and think Tehran will live up to its end of the nu­clear bar­gain,” Mr. Royce said in a state­ment. “If this is what the last 90 days look like, the next few years look like a dis­as­ter.”

One day af­ter the long-range mis­sile launch, Iran was hit with more crit­i­cism for con­vict­ing Wash­ing­ton Post jour­nal­ist Ja­son Reza­ian on es­pi­onage charges, prompt­ing a blast from House Speaker John A. Boehner.

“Pres­i­dent Obama’s gam­ble that a nu­clear deal would lead to a more re­spon­si­ble Iran has al­ready failed,” Mr. Boehner said. “This sham of a trial vi­o­lated ev­ery in­ter­na­tional stan­dard and made a mock­ery of Iran’s own le­gal sys­tem.”

Sen­ate Repub­li­cans, joined by four Democrats, ap­proved a res­o­lu­tion of dis­ap­proval Sept. 10 by 58-42 but were un­able to muster the 60 votes needed to over­ride Pres­i­dent Obama’s veto.

The ad­vo­cacy group J Street, which ran ads in fa­vor of the nu­clear deal lead­ing up to the Sen­ate vote, agreed that the ICBM test was a “gra­tu­itous vi­o­la­tion of a U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tion” but in­sisted that it did not breach the JCPOA it­self.

“It’s not sur­pris­ing that groups who op­pose the JCPOA are seek­ing to cast ev­ery in­stance of Ira­nian bad be­hav­ior as a vi­o­la­tion of it,” said J Street Vice Pres­i­dent of Gov­ern­ment Af­fairs Dy­lan Wil­liams. “It would be much bet­ter for U.S. and Is­raeli se­cu­rity if those still hop­ing to kill the deal piv­oted to work­ing with the U.S. gov­ern­ment to en­sure its strict im­ple­men­ta­tion.”

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