Schumer is on the wrong side of history with Iran deal

Greg Nash

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) recently stated that “I strongly believe Congress should have the right to disapprove any agreement and I support the Corker bill which would allow that to occur.” With that sentiment, the top-ranking Democrat could be the missing piece that Republicans need to derail President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal. As noted in Politico, Republicans don’t have the votes to defeat Obama’s bill in Congress and the fate of the deal lies with Democrats. As a result, Schumer is not only being disloyal to a Democratic president and helping Republicans once again undermine Obama; the New York senator is on the wrong side of history.

{mosads}First, American diplomacy will never again be taken seriously by countries like Iran that negotiate with future presidents. Imagine a Republican Schumer during President Reagan’s negotiations with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Or, simply imagine a future president negotiating with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but fearing Congress potentially voting against the deal. Schumer brings up the fact that Iran sanctions are imposed by Congress, but forgets to bring up that sanctions are simply one element of U.S. foreign policy.

Sanctions, like military deterrence and everything else pertaining to diplomacy, are used as leverage by a president. When Reagan met Gorbachev five times in the 1980s, he thankfully didn’t have to worry about 47 Democratic senators writing a letter to the Soviets or a Republican senator (a Schumer in the GOP) threatening to undermine nuclear negotiations. As described in a Brookings Institution book review, “Reagan and Gorbachev: Shutting the Cold War Down,” Reagan was given every opportunity by Congress to utilize American diplomacy to its fullest:

During his first term, Reagan denounced the pre-Gorbachev Soviet Union as an “evil empire.” … For his part, Reagan assumed the new general secretary of the Communist Party would be “totally dedicated to traditional Soviet goals.” Nonetheless, he was prepared to test [British] Prime Minister [Margaret] Thatcher’s first impression: “like Mr. Gorbachev; we can do business together.” Getting back into the business of diplomacy with the principal adversary of the United States appealed to Reagan, just as it had to six previous occupants of the Oval Office. … Above all, Reagan wanted to establish a relationship with his Soviet counterpart that would make it easier to manage conflicts lest they escalate to thermonuclear war — an imperative for every American president since Eisenhower.

Imagine Obama given the time and leniency to go from calling an enemy an “evil empire” to “doing business” with this enemy, without political gamesmanship back in Congress. Reagan and Gorbachev were allowed by Congress (and by the Kremlin) to forge a relationship with one another without the never-ending denunciations by naysayers and political opportunists.

Furthermore, Reagan had his share of detractors, but was given the opportunity (unlike Obama) to decide the direction of U.S. foreign policy without a vote in Congress. In addition, few remember that according to The Los Angeles Times in 1987, the Iranian regime had their own view of Reagan:

Iranian Parliament Speaker Hashemi Rafsanjani today showed reporters the Bible he said was sent to Iran by President Reagan and said the U.S. leader is courageous but old, weak, in bad health and undercut by political rivals. … In the rare meeting with foreign reporters, the Iranian official praised Reagan for seeking better relations with Iran and for saying there is no evidence that Iran is responsible for any terrorist acts in the last year and a half. … But he said Reagan is old, weak and in bad health and unable to counter unspecified rivals within his Republican Party. “He acted weakly and has been defeated,” Rafsanjani said.

Just imagine if Obama sent Iranian President Hassan Rouhani a Bible in 2015. In addition, the Iran-Contra scandal illustrated that Reagan also sold the Iranians 1,500 missiles, something the GOP forgets when criticizing Obama’s recent deal. Back in 1987, “Iranian officials praised Reagan for seeking better relations with Iran” and Rafsanjani even complimented the president on saying “there is no evidence” that Iran engaged (within a year and half) in terrorism. As for Obama’s image to American enemies and allies, Rafsanjani believed Reagan “acted weakly” and was overpowered by rivals within the GOP.

Chuck Schumer should remember that even Ronald Reagan wanted better relations with Iran, sold the country weapons and didn’t view it as an existential threat to Israel or America. Schumer and the GOP are on the wrong side of history because they don’t have the country’s interest at heart; their constituencies and future election results have taken precedent over U.S-Iran relations. If Reagan, or any other president had Congress continually threaten to defeat a negotiated deal with an enemy nation, the Cold War might not have been won “without firing a shot.”

Goodman is an author and a journalist. 

Tags Bob Corker Chuck Schumer Hashemi Rafsanjani Hassan Rouhani Iran Iran deal Margaret Thatcher Mikhail Gorbachev Nuclear program of Iran Ronald Reagan Soviet Union U.S.-Iran relations
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