Editorial: Netanyahu issues fair warning to U.S., world
Set aside the political side show of Israeli Prime Minister's Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Congress on Tuesday, and the message of his speech should spur lawmakers to seek a significant role in nuclear arms negotiations with Iran.
Netanyahu warned the joint session that America and its allies are headed for a "very bad deal," one that could leave the Middle East more dangerous and Iran a greater threat to world peace.
About 50 Democratic members, including Rep. John Conyers of Detroit, boycotted the speech because the prime minister accepted the invitation without consulting with President Barack Obama.
Hopefully, the missing lawmakers were listening outside the chambers to what was a very important message, particularly for Congress, which has traditionally had sign-off authority on arms deals. Obama has signaled he will not seek congressional approval for the pact with Iran, nor to end the sanctions that Congress had voted to impose.
Congressional oversight is essential. There are too many potential traps in a deal with Iran for Obama to act unilaterally. Netanyahu detailed those dangers in chilling detail.
For starters, even during the negotiations, Iran has not slowed its support of the world's troublemakers and Israel's tormentors. It still is a major financier of terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. Nor has Iran eased its hostile rhetoric toward either the United States or Israel.
If the administration is counting on Iran to moderate after a deal is signed, there are no early hints of that happening.
Netanyahu cautioned against expecting Iran to help in the fight against the Islamic State, noting that the jihadist group and Iran share the same desire to impose a radical Islamist ideology on the world.
"The enemy of your enemy is still your enemy," he warned.
The deal being negotiated would allow Iran to keep much of its nuclear infrastructure, and maintain a very short break-out time for the Iranians to develop a bomb should it decide to violate the agreement.
And even if it upholds the bargain, Netanyahu reminded Congress that all restrictions on Iran's nuclear program would disappear in 10 years, leaving it with a vast nuclear capability and nothing to keep it from making a weapon. Not a single centrifuge for enriching uranium would be dismantled under the pact as currently configured.
The Obama administration is rushing a March 24 deadline for getting an agreement, and is behaving as if reaching a deal is more important for the United States than it is to Iran. That's not the case. Iran needs the deal to get out from under crushing economic sanctions. The U.S. wants a deal to stabilize the region; it should not accept an agreement that falls short of that goal.
And this one would. Obama should toughen his stance. As Netanyahu advised, any deal should demand that Iran stop threatening its neighbors and stop supporting worldwide terror. It should also agree to roll back its nuclear program and submit to a truly verifiable inspections regime.
Obama said after the speech that Netanyahu had offered no viable alternatives. But he did. The best alternative to a bad deal is to impose the tougher sanctions that are being sought by many in Congress.
A pact with Iran will commit America to a path that could lead to a very bad place. Congress must be consulted.