President Barack Obama said Monday afternoon that Republican legislators want to ally with “the hardliners in Iran” who supposedly don’t want a nuclear agreement with the U.S.
But Obama’s press secretary also suggested midday Monday that the GOP is planning to wage war on its would-be Iranian allies.
The claims came shortly after 47 GOP senators intervened in Obama’s private, high-stakes strategic talks with Iran. The GOP senators intervened by releasing a letter on Monday morning that reminds Iran’s theocratic leaders — and Obama — that the U.S. Senate decides whether deals signed by a president can be adopted as long-lasting treaties.
“I think it’s somewhat ironic to see some members of Congress wanting to make common cause with the hardliners in Iran,” Obama told reporters on Monday afternoon.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest suggested that the GOP is planning to ignite war with Iran’s anti-Western Islamic theocracy. “The rush to war, or at least the rush to the military option that many Republicans are advocating is not at all in the best interests of the United States,” Earnest told reporters.
The administration’s claim that GOP critics “are the same as hardliners in Iran is preposterous,” said Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Iran’s “hardliners are the people who are illegally procuring nuclear material for their program, are killing people in Lebanon, in Syria and in Iraq, and are violent thugs,” he said.
“Our ‘hardliners’ — so to speak — are sending a letter to the foreign minister of Iran [while] it is the administration that is allying with these people,” he said.
Obama’s complaint about the GOP letter “is pretty rich … [because his deal] would effectively ignore Iran’s other activities beyond the illicit nuclear procurement,” such as its sponsorship of terrorism in many countries, Schanzer said.
There’s “little to no evidence that that Iran is going to change. … It is a genocidal regime,” he said.
Obama has kept the details of his negotiations secret from the senators. But the potential deal is regarded by critics as evidence that the United States is giving Iran’s agitating Shia theocracy too much leeway.
The deal is aimed at preventing Iran from being able to build a nuclear weapon in exchange for loosened sanctions, but its framework has yet to address the future of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges and enriched uranium, or the country’s development of long-range missiles. It would likely last 10 years and would likely not prevent funding for jihadi groups or protect Iranians’ human or democratic rights.
Obama has said he would continue to push for those priorities after securing the arms deal. He has described the draft deal a way for Iran to gain power and legitimacy in the region.
Iran’s theocracy has “a path to break through that isolation and they should seize it,” Obama told NPR in December 2014. “Because if they do, there’s incredible talent and resources and sophistication … inside of Iran, and it would be a very successful regional power that was also abiding by international norms and international rules, and that would be good for everybody.”
On Monday Obama and his deputies and allies hammered the letter to Iran’s leaders with a variety of claims.
“The letter is couched in all these terms about trying to provide a civics lesson to Iran’s political leadership. But the fact is they’re against a deal,” Earnest complained. “The fact is the only other alternative that anybody else has put on the table is a military option. … This Republican track record of putting military options ahead of diplomatic options has a long and rather sordid history.”
In contrast, the GOP critics of the deal say they oppose any loosening of economic sanctions until Iran gives up its plans to build a nuclear force that would likely spur regional conflict and prompt other nations to develop nuclear weapons. The senators have not publicly advocated for war or military strikes, but have said those options have to be preserved.
“It’s an unusual coalition,” said Obama, implicitly recognizing the ideological gulf between the Iran’s theocracy and the GOP’s rough alliance of business groups, libertarians, small-government conservatives and Christian activists.
The GOP coalition is very different from the Iranian corps of Islamic religious leaders, who are confident they can use holy texts to build a perfect heaven on Earth, complete with shrouded women, polygamy, apartheid-like inferior status for non-Muslims, and an unelected leadership of Islamic experts. To build that perfect heaven on Earth, Iran’s theocracy expands government control over Iran’s economy, and jails or kills its enemies, including Christians and homosexuals. The theocracy also funds jihad attacks on Jews.
None of those theocratic priorities are on the GOP’s to-do list.
“The common thread at least between this Iran situation and the [congressional debate over war against the Islamic State jihad group] is that we see a Republican Party that is eager to direct almost unlimited authority to the president of the United States to wage war, but to try to repeatedly tie his hands when he’s trying to conduct diplomacy,” Earnest claimed.
“The reason that we’re having this conversation and this debate, in fact, is because there is a starkly different approach between the one that’s advocated by Republicans that puts the military option and war fighting at the top of the list,” he claimed.