Carolyn Kaster/AP

What's Driving Democrats to Defy Obama on Iran?

Is it domestic politics? Or something else? The stakes are high with the Iran deal, but for some Senate Democrats, apparently not high enough. By Ron Fournier

This paragraph from a New York Times story on proposed new sanctions for Iran sent a chill down my spine:

Behind these positions is a potent mix of political calculations in a midterm election year. Pro-Israel groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, have lobbied Congress to ratchet up the pressure on Iran, and many lawmakers are convinced that Tehran is bluffing in its threat to walk away from the talks.

I'm ambivalent about the debate over Iran: President Obama is pursuing an agreement with Tehran to suspend its nuclear program (sounds good), while many lawmakers don't believe Iran can't be trusted to comply with any diplomatic accord (makes sense). But I don't want U.S. foreign policy swayed by lobbyists and politics.

It is the unambiguous policy of the United States to forbid Iran from destabilizing the Middle East and threatening Israel with a nuclear program. The question is how to curb Tehran.

Obama wants to exploit the crippling effects of existing sanctions to negotiate an antinuclear deal. The White House argues that a strict new sanctions law would scuttle diplomacy and make military action more likely. His opponents, the GOP and a surprising number of Democrats, argue that new sanctions would decrease the chances of war by keeping Iran in line.

Pro-sanctions forces accuse the White House of politicizing the issue by invoking the specter of war, but there is another political component: the influence of AIPAC and the importance of Jewish voters to the Democratic coalition.

(Read more Defense One coverage on Iran here)

Peter Beinart argues that liberals are not pressuring Senate Democrats enough to oppose the bill.

So why on earth are fourteen Democrats joining Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio in openly defying the president? In a party that is clearly moving left on economics, how can so many prominent Democratic senators support a bill so widely scorned by Democratic foreign policy experts? Because in recent years grassroots Democrats have turned their attention away from Middle East policy and AIPAC has not …

In 2006, Democrats enraged by Joe Lieberman's support for the Iraq war denied him their party's renomination for Senate. In 2008, Democrats embittered by Hillary Clinton's support for Iraq helped orchestrate one of the biggest upsets in presidential history. But they were too late; the damage was already done. The American left is very good at punishing politicians for supporting disastrous wars. Its challenge in 2014 is to show that it can stop politicians from promoting those wars in the first place.

Greg Sargent of the Washington Post has a good vote count on the bill for strict new sanctions ("An Odd Silence Among Senate Dems on Iran"):

Right now, the current count of senators who are co-sponsoring the Iran sanctions bill is at 58, with 16 Democratic senators supporting it. Meanwhile, 10 Democratic committee chairs have come out against the bill. Harry Reid is said to be against it, too. That leaves nearly 30 Senate Dems unaccounted for.

He called the "conspicuous public silence" of Democrats a sign "of just how cautious Dems are being about the domestic politics of negotiating with Iran right now."

Obama dithered and stumbled on Syria, but his instincts were right: Avoid bloodshed if at all possible. He is acting prudently on Iran. He is the commander in chief, and you'd expect fellow Democrats to give him the benefit of the doubt. Is the Democratic opposition to Obama based on the merits or born of political calculation? If it's the former, wayward Democrats had better be right, because the stakes are high. If it's the latter, shame on them and their "antiwar" party.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.