The leftist Foreign Policy magazine has recently published a ridiculous screed by the ultra-leftist pro-disarmament agitator and pseudo-expert Jeffrey Lewis of the Monterey Institute for International Studies.
In that screed, Lewis – who some have called an “expert” on nuclear weapons and who has testified before Congress on more a few occassions – drops his mask of an “expert” and shows the whole world his true face – that of a traitor, a hyperpartisan liberal Democrat, and a campaigner for America’s unilateral disarmament and for an appeasement policy of allowing hostile regimes to build up their nuclear arsenals.
The title and introducing sentence of that diatribe alone reveal Lewis’s true face:
“Why A Bad Deal With Iran Is Better Than No Deal At All”
“Look here, you hypocritical Republicans”
But Lewis doesn’t stop there, of course. In his diatribe, he lectures Republicans that obtaining an agreement that limits the number of Iranian centrifuges to just 164 or some other low number is impossible. But – says Lewis – if Barack Obama and John Kerry are just given a free hand to conclude a “bad deal” with Iran, Tehran’s nuclear program would be frozen – allowing the West to somehow stop the Iranians from acquiring nuclear weapons before they’re able to do so but after they decide to resume their nuclear weapons program.
Furthermore, Lewis believes any military strike on iran would be “half-assed” and would only unravel the sanctions regime by depriving the US of the support of its allies, and that the Bush Administration was wrong to withdraw the US from the Agreed Framework with North Korea in 2002. And, as a hyperpartisan Democrat, Lewis strongly condemns the letter 47 Republican senators have sent to Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei.
Lewis is dead wrong on all counts.
To start with, the kind of deal that Obama and Kerry are prepared to accept – allowing Iran to keep thousands of centrifuges and continue enriching uranium on a massive scale, as well as continue developing ballistic missiles of ever-increasing range – would only facilitate Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Republican Senators are thus right to oppose any such proposed deal, and to warn Iran’s supreme leader that such a deal would not be legally binding without the Senate’s advice and consent. (More on that later.)
Such a deal would not only be a foolishness, it would actually undermine any effort to stop the Iranian nuclear weapons program. That’s because Iran would keep thousands of centrifuges while the US – and the West at large – would have to abolish sanctions against Iran – thus relieving Tehran of economic pain.
That would only greatly facilitate Iran’s path to nuclear weapon state status: thousands of centrifuges producing weapons-grade uranium and sanctions relief. And, of course, no limitation of its ballistic and cruise missile programs.
And that is assuming Iran would actually keep its end of the bargain. If it cheated – and it would certainly do – such an accord would be even more detrimental to US and allied security.
As for the Agreed Framework with North Korea, that accord – agreed by the Clinton administration in 1994 – was an utter foolishness which allowed North Korea to develop nuclear weapons. Under that utterly failed deal, North Korea was allowed to keep enriching uranium and maintaining a reactor producing plutonium – and, of course, to continue developing ballistic missiles. The US, in return, unilaterally withdrew its tactical nukes from South Korea. The Bush Administration rightly withdrew the US from that agreement when North Korea was caught CHEATING in the early 2000s – proving that the Agreed Framework was never worth the paper it was printed on.
As for the Republican senators letter – in which they reminded Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei that no US-Iran agreement would be legally binding without Senate consent – they are absolutely right.
Under the US Constitution, the President may conclude legally binding agreements on behalf of the United States ONLY with the advice and consent of AT LEAST two thirds of Senators present in the Senate’s place of meeting. The Constitution mentions the President’s agreement-making power only once – when it provides the above rule for concluding legally binding agreements on America’s behalf.
The Founding Fathers knew very well that it would be VERY dangerous to give the power to conclude such legally binding agreements (then called “treaties”) to the President alone. Had they done so, there would’ve been no limit to the commitments a President could undertake on America’s behalf. Thus, they put in place a system of checks and balances to ensure the President could never, by himself, make such commitments to foreign countries on the country’s behalf, and put in place a very high (2/3 of the Senate) requirement for any such agreement to be law.
“The President is to have power, with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the senators present concur. The king of Great Britain is the sole and absolute representative of the nation in all foreign transactions. He can of his own accord make treaties of peace, commerce, alliance, and of every other description.
It has been insinuated, that his authority in this respect is not conclusive, and that his conventions with foreign powers are subject to the revision, and stand in need of the ratification, of Parliament. But I believe this doctrine was never heard of, until it was broached upon the present occasion. Every jurist2 of that kingdom, and every other man acquainted with its Constitution, knows, as an established fact, that the prerogative of making treaties exists in the crown in its utomst plentitude; and that the compacts entered into by the royal authority have the most complete legal validity and perfection, independent of any other sanction.”
As Alexander Hamilton narrates above, the President of the United States cannot, by himself, conclude legally binding agreements on behalf of the US – he needs the advice and consent of two thirds of Senators present for that. By contrast, the British king of the time, King George III, against whom the former American colonies had previously rebelled, had the power to conclude any agreement of any kind on Britain’s behalf alone – as was the unanimous opinion of every British lawyer, and every other man acquainted with British constitutional law.
Thus, for example, when Britain’s then-Foreign Secretary the Lord Grenville concluded the so-called Jay’s Treaty with US Chief Justice John Jay, the treaty only needed King George III’s sanction to be ratified by Britain. But for the treaty to become legally binding on the US, two thirds of the Senators of the time (all of whom arrived in Philadelphia upon President Washington’s request to debate the treaty) had to vote for it – and the Senate resolution of advice and consent significantly modified the treaty (notably by striking its Article XII).
So the Senate Republicans are absolutely right – and Jeffrey Lewis, as always, is dead wrong. The Obama administration is desperately trying to conclude a deal with Iran at any cost – even if that means allowing Iran to freely develop and, one day, obtain a nuclear weapon one day. Republicans are right to oppose this – and to remind Iran’s supreme leader that ANY agreement between him and Obama won’t be legally binding unless it receives the Senate’s advice and consent.