End run around Congress

End run around Congress

On July 13, the day before the nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers was reached, the Obama administration began circulating a resolution at the U.N. Security Council calling for the chamber’s approval of the deal. That vote took place Monday, just a day after the agreement was officially delivered to Congress, with the council backing the agreement on the heels of the European Union giving its assent and Germany moving to reopen trade with Iran.

But the vote at the United Nations is almost irrelevant to the outrage expressed by some members of Congress and the news media over the submission of the resolution itself. They rightly point out that the administration had already agreed that Congress would have 60 days to review the Iran agreement and give it an up or down vote. That would be how our country would decide whether to go forward with the deal. But by going to the United Nations first and offering a resolution that would bind the United States and other members, the White House effectively pre-empted Congress and rendered any decision legislators make on the issue moot.

Republicans and some Democrats in Congress asked President Barack Obama to delay the U.N. vote until Congress could weigh in. That request was consistent with the president’s own public defense of the Iran deal during a wide-reaching news conference shortly after its announcement, when Obama said he welcomed congressional review. Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), respectively the chairman and the ranking member of the influential Foreign Relations Committee, were therefore justified in objecting to the White House’s U.N. maneuver. Corker went so far as to call the U.N. move an “affront to the American people.”

But now, the U.N. resolution is legally binding on member states. Congress, which has placed economic sanctions on Iran, could cause the United States to be in noncompliance if it votes to maintain those sanctions.

The administration has argued that the U.N. vote in no way affects the congressional review period or the right of Congress to express its views on the Iran deal. Some have said that the Security Council resolution doesn’t take effect for 90 days, giving Congress plenty of time to maneuver. But that’s silly. The resolution is now international law. The fact is that the administration was disingenuous or worse for agreeing to the congressional review process only to undercut it by pushing a U.N. vote.

Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have said repeatedly that one of the benefits of the Iran deal is the administration’s ability to use its newfound “relationship” with Iran to address issues relating to that country’s destabilizing support of the Assad regime in Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas and others. And the president, who has repeatedly violated his own red lines in pushing the negotiations, has said he will not let up on Iran.

Can he be trusted to meet his commitments?