Tags: iran | nuclear deal | trump

Iran Intentionally Sought Weak Deal With Obama

Iran Intentionally Sought Weak Deal With Obama
U.S. President Donald Trump announces his decision to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in the Diplomatic Room at the White House May 8, 2018, in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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Tuesday, 15 May 2018 11:53 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Prior to President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), otherwise known as the Iran deal, Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif made the following point to persuade the U.S. to continue adhering to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action:

Obviously, this would be a very bad precedent if the United States sends this message to the international community that the length or the duration of any agreement would depend on the duration of the presidency. That would mean people will at least think twice before they start negotiating with the United States.

This statement by Zarif is simply not to be taken seriously.

The Iranians, and the Obama administration, specifically chose the type of (temporary) deal they wanted to negotiate. They chose it for certain specific reasons (see below). If the Iranians and the Obama administration had wanted an agreement that was guaranteed to last past the end of the Obama presidency, they could have negotiated a different — and superior — kind of deal with the U.S. And this goes for the international community as well.

There is no bad precedent here; foreign nations understand how the U.S. formulates international agreements.

In fact, there really is no excuse to claim otherwise. Sen. Tom Cotton’s (R-AR) open letter to the Iranian leadership, authored in March of 2015 — before the final deal was reached — specifically explains exactly how the American system works.

When it comes to U.S. international agreements, there are three common types:

First, there is the “treaty.” This comes straight from the U.S. Constitution and the Federalist papers, which describe the procedures. The treaty is the most significant agreement the U.S. can make with another nation. The president negotiates it, and then submits the resulting document to the U.S. Senate to approve or reject a resolution of ratification of that treaty by a two-thirds vote. If this happens, then the treaty becomes part of the constitution, and lasts forever, unless it is changed using the same procedures.

President Obama avoided using these constitutional procedures. According to then-Secretary of State John Kerry, this was a deliberate decision because the administration claimed that passing a treaty through the Senate was “impossible.” This was actually a lie; the very same administration had managed to pass the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) through the U.S. Senate in 2011.

Second, there is the congressional-executive agreement. These types of agreements are made by both the president and the entire Congress. The president negotiates an agreement, and then a majority of both houses vote on the accord. If majorities support the deal, it becomes binding, much like regular legislation after it is signed by the president.

But Obama didn’t choose this option either. Almost certainly, this was because he knew he wouldn’t be able to win the support of a majority in either house of Congress for the final deal. The votes on the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 demonstrates this fact, as only 162 members of the House and 42 U.S. Senators voted (to uphold the filibuster) to support the deal.

Third, there are executive agreements. These have semi-permanent status; the next president can still renegotiate them, but often does not. Congress usually has some say in them, however. But President Obama also decided not to make the Iran deal an executive agreement.

So, going back to Zarif’s statement, if the Iranians wanted to establish a more permanent agreement, they could have insisted that President Obama negotiate a treaty, a congressional-executive agreement, or even an actual executive agreement with them. But, they didn’t do so.

Instead, the Iranians decided they wanted to have their cake and to eat it too. Presumably, they didn’t want to sign onto any official document with their most hated enemy, the “Great Satan.” Also, they knew a sucker when they saw one — Barack Obama — and sought to avoid any negotiations that might include the far more hawkish U.S. Congress. That was because they knew that Congress probably would have insisted on far tougher requirements on Iran, such as demanding that the Iranians allow the international inspectors onto their military sites, refusing to hand over the billions of dollars in frozen funds and sanctions relief that the Obama administration did, and rebuffing any attempts to weaken the UN Resolution regarding Iranian ballistic missile testing.

The Iranians can complain all they want now, but when they started this process, the Iranians — and the Obama administration — knew exactly what they were doing. They wanted the JCPOA to be nothing more than a set of “political commitments,” and not a legally binding document. They got their wish. But, they also assumed that Hillary Clinton would become the next president and follow President Obama in keeping the agreement for another four to eight years, after which the Iranians could triumphantly reveal their nuclear weapons officially. This did not happen.

Too bad for them. They gambled, and they lost. But the idea that the U.S. abrogating the JCPOA will harm U.S. negotiations with other foreign nations is, as they say, nothing more than “fake news.”

Adam Turner is the General Counsel and Legislative Affairs Director for the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET). To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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The Iranians, and the Obama administration, specifically chose the type of (temporary) deal they wanted to negotiate.
iran, nuclear deal, trump
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2018-53-15
Tuesday, 15 May 2018 11:53 AM
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