How Republicans can give Obama leverage against Iran, whether he wants it or not

Negotiations between Team Obama and the mullahs of Iran failed to result in an agreement before the supposed deadline. However, to no one’s surprise (except the Washington Post) the parties will continue to negotiate.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest intoned that “it’s time for Iran to make the serious commitments that they know the international community is expecting them to make to reach an agreement.”

Actually, it’s past that time. Literally. The administration’s stated deadline was yesterday.

The way to extract concessions is not to beg for them. Rather, one obtains concessions, if they are to be had, by demonstrating seriousness. In a case like this, one demonstrates seriousness by adhering to deadlines.

In other words, the U.S. should walk away. As any experienced negotiator knows, walking away doesn’t automatically mean an end to negotiations. If Iran is willing to make concessions, it will come chasing, in some face-facing way. If it doesn’t come chasing, this means it won’t make the concessions that are (or should be considered) necessary.

According to the Washington Post, time is of the essence for President Obama. But the essence of his timeliness concern pertains to thwarting the U.S. Congress, not to pressuring Iran:

In fact, the deadline was mostly about American politics. The Obama administration is trying to get an agreement with Iran before congressional critics have a chance to pass bills requiring their approval of any nuclear deal or imposing more sanctions on the country. Several bills are pending that would give Congress the option to reject a final accord.

Congress is out of session. It won’t return until April 14.

Congress may be on holiday, but Republican presidential politics isn’t. Bill Otis suggests that Republican candidates and potential candidates issue a joint statement that, in their view, any deal reached with Iran is not binding on the United States until the Senate ratifies it.

Unless the mullahs are overwhelmingly confident that a Democrat will win, the letter should give them pause. This might provide Obama leverage with which to negotiate a better deal. Alternatively, if there is no good deal to be had, the statement might be a deal-breaker for Iran. This would be a good outcome if, as appears to be the case, Iran won’t make the necessary concessions.

Most Republican contenders haven’t announced their candidacy yet. So the joint statement would have to be couched as coming from concerned Republicans, or some such description. The mullahs will grasp the import.

It’s possible that Rand Paul wouldn’t sign on. No problem. His decision not to sign would add clarity to the Republican race.

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