John Kerry will be back before Congress to try to sell the latest twist in the Obama administration’s Middle East policy. Fresh off of his failure to persuade legislators to authorize military action against Syria in response to its use of chemical weapons, Kerry will now try to persuade them not to pass additional sanctions against Iran in response to its nuclear weapons program.
And since Israel retains considerable support in Congress, even among Democrats, Kerry will attempt to show that the deal he signed off on (only to be thwarted by his friends the French), whereby Iran gets substantial relief from sanctions without taking substantial measures to dismantle its nuclear weapons program, doesn’t hang the Israelis out to dry.
In doing so, Kerry must overcome the exceptionally strong denunciation of his handiwork delivered by the Israeli Prime Minister. Benjamin Netanyahu is telling anyone who will listen and, in the case of the U.S. administration some who apparently won’t, that Kerry’s deal is a “monumental mistake.”
A less arrogant man than Kerry would find it daunting to urge Congress to take his word, not Netanyahu’s, on the merits of this deal from Israel’s perspective.
Kerry previewed his pitch to Congress today on Meet The Press. That pitch consisted in large part of an appeal to authority.
Kerry insisted that the Obama administration negotiators are “some of the most serious and capable, expert people in our government, who have spent a lifetime dealing with both Iran” and nuclear proliferation issues. He added: “I think we have a pretty strong sense of how to measure whether or not we are acting in the interests of our country and of the globe.” Ah, the “global test.”
As to the seriousness and capability of the administration’s negotiators, suffice it to say that the lead negotiator is Wendy Sherman. She was part of the team that negotiated the deal that enabled North Korea to develop nuclear weapons with impunity.
As to the Kerry’s “strong sense of how to measure whether or not he is acting in the interests of our country and of the globe,” think back to his positions on Syria. One day, it was his strong sense, and the administration’s, that we needed to launch a military attack against the Assad regime. The next day, their strong sense was that we shouldn’t attack, but instead should rely on Russia to help us rid Syria of chemical weapons. And not that long ago, it was Kerry’s strong sense that Assad was the key to ending “five decades of conflict” in the Middle East.
So Kerry will need more than appeals to authority, coupled with his usual hyperbole and fog-horn delivery, to sell the administration’s latest Middle Eastern gambit to a skeptical Congress.