Hillary Clinton is the X-factor for the Iranian nuclear deal’s congressional survival
“A parade of concessions to Iran,” was Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s comment on the nuclear accord expected to be announced and fully revealed later on Monday July 13 in Vienna. He underscored his point by playing back President Bill Clinton’s words upon signing the nuclear deal with North Korea 21 years ago: "North Korea will freeze and then dismantle its nuclear program,” Clinton announced then. “South Korea and our other allies will be better protected. The entire world will be safer as we slow the spread of nuclear weapons.”
Despite Bill Clinton’s pledge of carefully monitoring, Pyongyang broke through to a nuclear bomb in October 2006, twelve years later. By comparison; a ten-year limit on the period during which Iran is allowed to develop a bomb is believed to be incorporated in the Vienna accord. Its full text of100 pages plus is still to be fully disclosed.
By playing back the Clinton clip, Netanyahu aimed to place high on Washington’s agenda, the leverage in the hands of his wife, Hillary Clinton, in determining whether the deal survives the US Congress, which will have 60 days to review it.
Hillary is currently rated by the polls with a 62 percent lead in her run for the Democratic nomination in the 2016 presidential election. She tops the lists of alll declared Democratic and Republic contenders.
In the first week of July, she is quoted as supporting Obama’s relentless drive for a deal when she said: “I so hope that we are able to get a deal in the next week that puts a lid on Iran’s nuclear weapons program because that’s going to be a singular step in the right direction.”
Before that, she echoed Obama’s words that “no deal is better than a bad deal.”
Now that the accord is in its last stage, she has held back from judging whether it is good or bad – only in private conversations with wealthy Jewish contributors to her campaign, she has promised to be “a better friend to Israel than President Barack Obama.”
But once the final accord is in the bag – expected in the coming hours – Clinton will have to come out in the open, because she holds the key to a Senate majority for blocking it. The 54 Republican senators are committed to voting against it: Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell told Fox News Sunday: "I think it's going to be a very hard sell, if it's completed, in Congress. We already know it's going to leave Iran as a threshold nuclear state. It appears as if the administration's approach to this was to reach whatever agreement the Iranians are willing to enter into," he said.
But the 44 Democratic senators are wobbling between being loyal to the president and their profound misgivings about the deal with Iran. It would take 13 Democrats to cross the floor and join the Republicans to achieve the necessary majority for annulling the promised presidential veto of a negative vote.
A Clinton declaration against the deal could swing those 13 senators against the accord – so painfully crafted in 13 months of agonizing bargaining led by Secretary of State John Kerry – and leave Obama in the position of a lame duck president.
Iran’s leaders, after reading the map in Washington, took the precaution of submitting to the Majlis a motion that would require a parliamentary review every few months of the US performance in complying with the accord with the power to annul it if this performance was judged unsatisfactory.
This pits the Iranian parliament against the US Senate and, by implication, puts Hillary Clinton in the driving seat in Washington versus Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran.
Whatever she decides now – whether for or against the Iranian deal – will have consequences for her campaign for president. That campaign has almost a year and a half to run before the November 2016 election. If she backs the deal and lets the Democratic senators refrain from voting against it, she will be held accountable – not only by Jewish campaign donors, but, up to a point, the American voter too. Israeli and Saudi intelligence will certainly use a microscope to discover the tiniest particles of evidence of Iran’s non-compliance. They will be thrown in her face.
Republican rivals will certainly fuel their campaigns with allegations of the total surrender to Iran by Obama and Kerry – with consequences for the prospects of Obama’s former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.
Backing Obama would therefore cast a shadow over her presidential hopes, whereas taking the lead of a Democratic senatorial mutiny against it may well undo the deal before the year is out. Either way, Clinton faces one of her toughest decisions since she decided to run as the first American woman president.