John Kerry testified today before the House Foreign Relations Committee about the Iran deal. I watched only a small portion of it. The debate, though very important, is becoming stale.
For me, the most interesting moment occurred when Rep. Brad Sherman, a Democrat from California, asked Kerry whether, if Congress disapproves of the agreement and overrides President Obama’s veto of its disapproval, the administration would follow the law regarding what happens next. Under the law, what happens next is that new sanctions kick in.
Here, slightly edited, is Sherman’s exchange with Kerry:
Sherman: You strongly do not want [Congress] to override a presidential veto, but if we do, that triggers certain American laws. . .You don’t want us to do it. You think its terrible policy. You think the rest of the world would be against us.
But let’s say Congress doesn’t take your advice — we override a veto — and the law that’s triggered then imposes certain sanctions. Will you follow the law even though you think it violates this agreement, and even if you think its absolutely terrible policy?
Kerry: I can’t begin to answer that at this point without consulting with the President and determining what the circumstances are.
Sherman: So you’re not committed to following the law?
Kerry: I’m not going to deal with a hypothetical, that’s all.
Although the administration denies it, trust is at the heart of the Iran deal. For example, the deal is predicated on trust that Iran won’t tear it up once its economy improves significantly.
The deal also requires that we trust the American government to hold Iran’s feet to the fire on inspections, to “snap back” sanctions in the event of major violations, etc. I don’t see how Congress can trust this administration, especially after Kerry’s answer today.
Surely, all bets are off when the U.S. Secretary of State, when asked point blank by a member of Congress, refuses to commit to following the law.