Monday, August 10, 2015

Iran Amok

Senator Charles Schumer of New York became the highest-profile Democratic senator to announce his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal.  Although President Obama has gained more Senate Democrats for the Iran deal than he's lost  - has gotten the support of Democratic Senators Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Tim Kaine of Virginia and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin - Schumer's defection is seen as major blow, as he is not only one of the Senate's most high-profile Democrats (he's likely to replace Harry Reid as the leader of the Senate Democratic caucus when the 115th Congress convenes in January 2017) but also one of its most high-profile Jews - noteworthy, given Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's steadfast opposition top the deal and also given the intense lobbying against it by American Jewish groups.
Expect the media to press this point, as the news media seem to be pushing the narrative that the Iran deal is a bad one.  David Brooks has already marshaled selective poll results showing a "two-to-one" majority of Americans opposing it, ignoring (or possibly having seen and then misinterpreting) a poll showing that a third of Americans support the deal, another third of Americans are against it, and yet another third of Americans don't know enough about the deal to offer an opinion.  
Also, given the harsh rhetoric that the opponents of the deal have used in expressing their hostility to it, Obama has felt it necessary to fight force with force and respond with harsh rhetoric of his own, delivering an indignant speech in response to the naysayers in support of the Iran deal.  It was a public-relations disaster.  Democrats, who are often chided for their mealy-mouthed and wimpish explanations of policy, are dismissed even more out of hand when they come out swinging.  (When Al Gore, known for his stiffness, let loose with an angry, defiant condemnation of the Iraq War at a time when it still had popular support, the press had a field day ridiculing him for flying off the handle.)   Thus Obama's attempt to sound forceful, knowledgeable and passionate was interpreted as condescending and arrogant.  
Incidentally, there are 92 countries - including a few Arab countries - who back this deal.  Germany and the four members of the United Nations Security Council other than the United States (Great Britain, France, Russia and China), who helped negotiate it, are prepared to drop sanctions against Iran whether the United States backs it or not.  A rejection of the deal by Congress and a subsequent override of Obama's veto of their rejection will isolate not Iran but the United States.  Its unilateral sanctions will be ineffective, Iran will continue to enrich uranium, and the rejection the deal will give a possible Republican presidential successor to Obama an excuse to start another war in the Middle East.
So why are so many Americans so hostile to the deal while the rest of the world - sans Israel - is willing to give it a chance?  I suspect it has to do with more than just Israel.  It's probably also because of the hostage crisis of 1979-81 - we cannot and will not let it go.  Good grief, the hostages got home safely, the furor over the embassy seizure died down after they were freed, and that was that - life went on.  But we still have a hangup over that uncomfortable chapter of our history.  We're convinced that the Iranian people hate us. Actually, they love us, and they'd like to see the international sanctions end so they can join the rest of the world and be more like us.  Some of them even want to study here because we have so many wonderful colleges and universities.  But don't try telling Tom Cotton that.
I'm less optimistic than before that this deal will go through, with a presidential veto of the deal's rejection being sustained.  We Americans can't seem to get with the program with the rest of the world on anything, including this.  The Republican right wing in These States wants a confrontation with the Islamic fundamentalists running Iran, and they're not about to let some Democratic President stop them.  And they're in a good position to take back the White House.  Alert the armed forces:  Come 2017, they'll be going on a Persian excursion. :-(

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