Congress and the Iran Deal: An Embarrassment

The depressing prospects as Congress fulminates over a hard-forged nuclear deal with Iran are an embarrassing moment of US political lameness in the international spotlight.

/By Woody Woodruff/It’s pretty depressing that the best outcome for the US-Iran nuclear treaty will be a turndown by (mostly) Republicans in Congress followed by a veto of the turndown by President Obama and a failed veto override vote by Congress, upholding the treaty in a backhanded way.

It’s another example of the US political system’s rapid decline in the eyes of most people and governments outside our borders. How does a hard-won, closely calibrated deal between two nations with lots of bad moments in their past get dismissed as worthless by members of Congress who basically are against it because it comes from the Obama administration – and ONLY because of that?

For the international community, it’s like refusing to acknowledge the value of an 0-0 tie after triple extra-time between two championship-caliber teams – just because you inexplicably don’t believe in the worth of soccer – er, football. 

Leaders in the rest of the world, particularly Europe, know that the US has always substituted threats – military or economic – for actual hard-edged diplomacy. After John Kerry and Co.’s incredibly hard work to show that the US actually knows how to do diplomacy when the chips are down, Congress is showing its general ignorance more than ever in this unpleasant scenario.

As a longtime member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, I am even more horrified by the breezy assurance of the deal’s opponents that an aggressive war against Iran – the obvious alternative to making this deal work as submitted – would be another “cakewalk” for US forces. Their galloping amnesia – which embraces the Vietnam debacle of my green age as well as the Iraq and Afghanistan debacles 2.0 – means that the grandchildren of my brother and sister vets could once more trek off to fight some war on behalf of chest-thumping dudes who increasingly have no connection to any uniform except Capitol Hill pinstripes.

This casual assumption of US military domination in any conflict – which happens occasionally in Hollywood but nowhere else – is particularly poignant in the case of Iran. It’s the nation whose democratic exit from monarchy was covertly reversed by CIA action. On behalf of the international oil cartel, Iran’s elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh was deposed and (no surprise) killed with strong CIA participation, and the cooperative Shah returned to power.

There are plenty of people in the US who don’t know this, more who don’t care. There is nobody in Iran who doesn’t remember this overturning of their democratic aspirations, which paved the way for the theocratic revolution that still grips the country. There are many more or less secular Iranians who have a good feeling about the US as a lifestyle model but can’t forget our duplicity. Blowing off this nuclear deal – which is highly popular in Iran – would reinforce the impression that the US system can’t be trusted, much as Iranians like us as everyday people. This would wreck a chance for the US to get a foothold on both sides of the corrosive Sunni-Shia divide that’s now convulsing the Middle East. It is not in our interests to back off and just “let them fight it out themselves” and the rest of the Western powers know this quite well. The US has to catch up.

Even though the GOP know-nothings in Congress can casually invite war by rejecting the nuclear pact, sound thinkers in the Senate and House can uphold Obama’s veto and salvage a little bit of the US’s international standing. It is worth salvaging. I’m one of many concerned Marylanders bugging Sen. Ben Cardin and Rep. Steny Hoyer to affirm their good sense by backing the nuclear deal with Iran. It’ll be helpful to have some people in authority who show the rest of the world that the US has not totally taken leave of its senses.