“Pat, sometimes it seems like our friends want me to go over the cliff with flags flying,” President Reagan once told me.
Today, it is “Bibi” Netanyahu and the neocons howling “kill the deal” and “bomb Iran” who are shoving the Republican Party toward the cliff.
The question, which may decide 2016, may be framed thus:
Should a Republican Congress meticulously point out the flaws and risks of this nuclear deal with Iran and, if the Iranians do cheat or attempt a breakout, be rewarded for their skepticism and statesmanship?
Or should the GOP sabotage and scuttle the deal and let itself be held politically liable for the diplomatic and strategic disaster that would follow?
Consider the consequences of successful Republican sabotage.
The U.S. coalition of France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China would be shattered. But the U.N. Security Council, China, Russia and the Europeans would still go ahead and lift sanctions on Iran.
Should Congress override a veto by President Obama, pile new sanctions on Iran, and demand new concessions, Tehran could ignore us or declare itself no longer bound to the concessions it has already made.
If Iran then began to restore its nuclear program to where it was 18 months ago, we would have one option left to stop it: war.
But Obama is not going to war with Iran. Hence, goaded by the neocons, GOP candidates would spend 2015 and 2016 assuring the nation that war with Iran is still “on the table” should they win the White House.
Is this a winning platform?
Yet this is the path Bibi and the neocons would put America on.
John Bolton, a possible presidential candidate, has already come out for bombing Iran. John McCain urges Israel to “go rogue,” prodding Bibi to launch a strike on Iran and drag us into his war.
Lindsey Graham supports “an authorization for the use of military force” against Iran and said in 2010 that we should launch an air war so massive that Iran would be unable to defend itself.
Sheldon Adelson, casino oligarch and Daddy Warbucks who put $100 million behind the party in 2012 and promises more this time, has advocated a nuclear strike to warn Iran to stop enriching and a follow-up nuclear strike on its capital if Iran defies us.
“Kill the Deal” is the headline on Bill Kristol’s editorial in the Weekly Standard. Writes neocon Joshua Muravchik, war is “our only option.” Gov. Scott Walker has declared that his first act as president would be to kill the nuclear deal.
President Walker would thus put us, alone, without allies, on a road to war — to strip Iran of weapons of mass destruction it does not have.
Is this what America can look forward to if it votes Republican?
A new Middle East war with a nation three times the size of Iraq, and with Dover receiving again the coffins and Walter Reed the casualties?
Which brings us to Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who declined to sign Tom Cotton’s letter to Ayatollah Khamenei and is best positioned to plumb the depths of this nuclear deal to determine whether Iran’s concessions are real.
Iran has agreed to cut back its operating centrifuges to 5,000, to reconfigure its Arak reactor so it does not produce plutonium, to stop enriching underground at Fordow, to dilute all of its 20-percent enriched uranium, and to allow in more inspectors and inspections.
If true, the deal appears to do what Obama says it does: close off every known avenue to an Iranian bomb.
My own sense is that Iran decided some time ago not to test a nuclear device because it believes, as do we, this could mean the spread of nukes to Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia — which Iran does not want any more than we do.
Corker should schedule testimony from National Intelligence Director Adm. James Clapper and the directors of the CIA and DIA.
The critical questions: Does the U.S. intelligence community stand by its declaration of three years ago that Iran does not have a bomb program?
How long would it take Iran, if it decided to go for a bomb, to build and test one? How long would it take us to discover a breakout?
Does Iran have an ICBM that can hit the United States, as Bibi claims? Is Iran testing intercontinental ballistic missiles?
The GOP should raise every legitimate question, but if the deal seems to do what Obama claims it does, let it go into effect.
Then, if Iran cheats, the nation will turn to the GOP. But if Iran abides by the deal and the deal accomplishes what Obama promises, the GOP can say: We did our due diligence. We did our duty.
Should the deal collapse, Republicans will be far better off if the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps or some new ayatollah sabotaged it than if Congress is seen as the perpetrator.