Later this month, American legislators will likely be giving a “thumbs down” to the so-called Iran deal that was signed July 14 by Iran and five world powers, including the United States. The deal is aimed at lifting the sanctions that had been imposed on Iran, while continuing to hinder the Islamic Republic’s production of nuclear weapons.

Planned for September 17, the vote is expected to not only be a referendum on the Iran deal, but also reflect how controversial and divisive the issue has been.

That’s because the Republican-controlled House and Senate, along with most Israelis, most Americans and most Jews,
feel the deal offers Iran too much leeway in its quest for
nuclear weapons.

The consensus among the aforementioned groups is that there are holes in the agreement that not only allow Iran to proceed, but lifts $150 billion in sanctions that will, in part, inevitably be used to fund global terror.

The potential stumbling block to the Sept. 17 vote is that President Obama can veto the resolution, as he assured he would.

Republican leaders, should they choose, can then override and block the veto, but only with a two-thirds majority – called a supermajority – in each of the two chambers of Congress. This means that the Republicans, which currently occupy 247 seats in the House of Representatives – as compared to the Democrats’ 188 seats –would need 43 Democrats to vote against the President, which is highly unlikely.

Interestingly enough, there is no unanimity against the deal even among Jewish legislators. According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, there are 28 Jewish members of Congress: 26 Democrats, one independent who caucuses with the Democrats, and one Republican. Nine of them are Senators, and 19 are members of the House of Representatives. Of these 26 Jewish legislators, nine back the Iran deal, seven oppose it, and 12 are undecided. As of press time, 24 out of 34 Democratic Senators support the deal.

Here in the Tri-State Area, a number of local Democratic legislators have voiced dissention. Senator Robert Menendez from New Jersey has recently announced that he will vote to override a presidential veto.

“While I have many specific concerns about this agreement, my overarching concern is that it requires no dismantling of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and only mothballs that infrastructure for 10 years,” Senator Menendez said to the media. “Not even one centrifuge will be destroyed under this agreement.” Menendez was the Former chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, meanwhile, posted a 1,600-word essay called, “My Position on the Iran Deal” endeavoring to explain why he intended to vote against it.

He began by saying he had studied the issue deeply for three weeks, trying to disassociate himself from “pressure, politics or party” to “make a decision solely based on the merits.” While “questioning dozens of proponents and opponents,” he weighed the consequences and merits of either side, he explained. “Advocates on both sides have strong cases for their point of view that cannot simply be dismissed,” he added.

Though he said he gave much credit to President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry for their work on the deal, he said he looked through the lens of what could occur 10 years hence, as well as now, saying “there are serious weaknesses in the agreement,” including the fallacy of “anywhere, anytime” inspections, as in truth Iran has a three-week warning before inspections. Those inspections, moreover, come with an additional caveat: the United States cannot inspect on its own accord; it requires the consent of European powers. Schumer’s fear is that the Europeans would put finances over safety: after the sanctions are lifted, they will be so entrenched in economic transactions with the Iranians that they would not want to harm relations by allowing inspections.
With money free flowing again, the Iranians could play the
waiting game.

“After 15 years of relief from sanctions, Iran would be stronger financially and better able to advance a robust nuclear program,”
said Schumer.

But that’s not the only fear of lifted sanctions.

“For years, Iran has used military force and terrorism to expand its influence in the Middle East, actively supporting military or terrorist actions in Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq, and Gaza. That is why the U.S. has labeled Iran as one of only three nations in the world who are ‘state sponsors of terrorism.’… [And] would undoubtedly use some of that money to redouble its efforts to create even more trouble in the Middle East, and, perhaps, beyond.”

It is Schumer’s view that Iran will remain consistent in its goals to bring terrorism to the region and globally. “Better to keep U.S. sanctions in place, strengthen them, enforce secondary sanctions on other nations, and pursue the hard-trodden path of diplomacy once more, difficult as it may be.”

Schumer later explained to the media that “this is one of the most difficult decisions that I had to make.”

While the deal is expected to stand by force of Presidential veto, the upcoming vote may very well prove to be a sort of Congressional referendum on the Obama/Kerry approach to foreign policy. Strong opposition to the deal from the Democratic side of the aisle could potentially signal growing overall disapproval with the President even within his own political ranks, which could have implications for the party as it prepares for next year’s Presidential campaign, and for President Obama’s legacy. Moreover, many Senators and Congressman see this vote as an opportunity for conscientious objection, regardless of the outcome, and thus the vote is worth following as a window into the worldview of individual lawmakers.

For us, meanwhile, we will continue to place our trust and faith in the Guardian of Israel who “neither slumbers nor sleeps,” and hope and pray for the safety and peace of the State of Israel, and its continued prosperity in the face of ongoing threats to
its security.