Two Takes on the Iran Deal

Two reactions from WaPo this morning to the Iran nuclear deal offer about as wide a disparity of opinion as is possible. Greg Sargent allows as how Republican shrieking over the deal–which he considers more or less a done deal because Obama only needs one-third of Congress to go along with him–could increase the likelihood that 2016 will be the rare elections in which foreign policy is a reasonably big deal. But he suggests that’s a debate Democrats should “lean into:”

[T]he argument that develops around the agreement may also take shape around the virtues and risks of international engagement. And this could join other issues to feed into a broader contrast, in which Republicans are opposing international engagement on multiple fronts — including Cuba and climate change (on which we may have an accord later this year). Meanwhile, Clinton may well embrace international engagement on multiple fronts, and use this contrast to cast the GOP as too inward looking and trapped in the past to confront the challenges of the future.

Meanwhile, across the web page, Jennifer Rubin is, as you might have predicted, living on a very different planet. The headline of the first of many hundreds of posts I am sure she will write on this subject says it all: “Critics relieved that the Iran deal is absurd.” She goes on to blithely suggest that congressional disapproval of the deal is now “likely,” and warns that support for it by HRC “may be the death knell of her presidential ambitions.”

As it happens, I think even Greg may be overstating the political importance of this issue outside the fever swamps where people like Rubin live. If there is any foreign policy/national security issue that is getting the attention of Americans right now, it is ISIS, Iran’s sworn enemy. If indeed some of the newly liberated export dollars make their way into the hands of Iran’s regional clients, a good deal of it will be spent on fighting ISIS. Now I don’t know that many Americans will look at it that way, but suffice it to say that the Iranian threat to the U.S. is very second-hand, and that outside certain precincts of the Christian Right that are not up for grabs in the 2016 presidential election, you cannot make a U.S. election-turning argument based on Bibi Netanyahu’s construction of Israel’s interests.

Because Christian Right and also militarist voters do matter in the Republican presidential nominating contest, I suspect the main political import of this deal for the time being will be its usefulness as a token of both anti-Obama and anti-anti-Bibi savagery in the Republican presidential nomination contest. And that is where Rubin will achieve her own apotheosis, as a self-appointed commissar rating the 17 candidates on their commitment to announce an abrogation of the Iran nuclear deal in their Inaugural Address.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.