My Facebook and Twitter blew up yesterday when Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal, as did yours, as did the news around the world. The Doomsday Clock, maintained since 1947 by the editors at Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, stands – before Trump’s decision – at 2 minutes to midnight. The closest it’s ever been. And the clock reads the same as it did in 1953, the year of the Hydrogen Bomb and Duck and Cover (blast from the past, see below). And even when Trump’s opposition to the deal was merely a threat and not a decision, it was already cited in the Doomsday calculations. Factored in. Trump disregards (and probably doesn’t understand) diplomacy, and doesn’t appear to take seriously that this deeply unsettles our allies. For Trump, Iran and North Korea becoming nuclear states is linked. And he is clearly using Iran to go hardline on incoming talks with North Korea. The risk is this: Why would North Korea trust us, when we don’t honor the agreements we make? Why indeed.
The Democrats, who’ve had months to prepare for this moment, are deep into Day Two of outrage. They’re right, and we’re right along with them, because this is one of the most irresponsible things this president has done, the tip-top … of a pileup … of stupid things. But the stakes ramp way up when the words Iran, nuclear and North Korea enter the conversation. (This for example, is demoralizing.) And I wish I felt more trusting, more optimistic, or had a reason to.
One of the Democrats speaking out against Trump’s exit from the Iran deal is Senator Bob Menendez; ironic, because Menendez opposed the deal all along, to the degree he was pushing a hard-line sanctions bill that threatened to unravel the whole deal with Iran, according to Obama Secretary of State John Kerry. To the degree that complaints came out of the White House saying Menendez and his backers were nothing more than warmongers, itchy for military action with Iran. Another top Dem who opposed the Iran deal was Chuck Schumer, who is now Senate Minority Leader. One of my smart friends made the point that a functioning Democratic Party would not have elevated Schumer, given his public break on President Obama’s signature foreign policy. But Schumer’s still allowed to have sway. So is Menendez, who’d been Chair of of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the run-up to the Iran agreement, and is it’s Ranking Member now. Bless the man for standing by his convictions, but his convictions on foreign policy drift toward neo-con and warmonger/hardliner. Too often, not always. When I’ve disagreed with Menendez, it’s usually foreign policy; his roadblocks to the Iran deal, his loud objections to (America’s overdue) normalizing relations with Cuba (that I don’t excuse just because he’s Cuban-American), and support for Israel’s policies that runs far to the right even of Israel’s own peace movement.
So, glad as I am to have Menendez join the Democratic chorus against this latest nuttery of Trump’s, I take what Menendez says about this with a grain of salt. Too little, too late. It looks to me as if top Democrats like Menendez and Schumer showing lack of faith in Obama’s deal weakened it, and may have made it easier for Trump to kill it. For me, Menendez junked his credibility on this. Yesterday, Roll Call reported on 7 lawmakers who opposed the Iran deal and now opposed Trump withdrawing from it. Roll Call on Menendez:
While the Senate Foreign Relations ranking member opposes the deal, he said it’s a “grave mistake” to walk away from it without a plan for preventing Iran from restarting its nuclear weapons program and for countering the regime’s dangerous non-nuclear activities, and without our allies and partners.
“The President initially had an opportunity to work with our allies and build follow-on agreements to address serious concerns with the JCPOA, including Iran’s nuclear capacity after certain restrictions expire,” Menendez said in a statement. “But now, President Trump owns the consequences of today’s decision.”
The New Jersey Democrat said U.S. withdrawal from the agreement makes it more likely Iran will restart its nuclear weapons program in the future and empowers Iran and other countries like Russia and China “to continue major weapons sales, deepen economic ties, and further challenge the United States and Europe not only in the Middle East but in other areas like North Korea.”
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