If Chuck Schumer kills the Iran nuclear deal, he should not be Senate minority leader
The framework for the Iranian nuclear deal is about as good as anyone could reasonably expect. If it were solely up to the negotiators, it would likely be finalized in June. But they are not the only players, and it's become clear that the biggest danger to the deal are hawks in Iran and the U.S.
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) is threatening action that may destroy the bargain, while Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is doing the same. Iran is out of the U.S.'s control — but Democrats can hold Schumer to account. If he destroys the Iran deal, he must not be allowed to become Senate minority leader, a position that was basically bequeathed to him by outgoing Minority Leader Harry Reid.
On the Iranian side, Khamenei said out of the blue this week that any deal must include the immediate lifting of all sanctions and prevent foreign inspectors from visiting military sites, two demands that could blow up the tentative framework negotiated in Lausanne, Switzerland. However, there's good reason to believe Khamenei is positioning for domestic hardliners. The Lausanne framework provides for the lifting of a big chunk of current sanctions, while keeping others related to Iran's support for Hezbollah. Khamenei, in other words, could squirrel out of his seemingly tough demands if he wanted.
At any rate, if Khamenei really does want to blow up the deal, there's no stopping him. Iran will either accept the deal or it won't. If not, it's really Khamenei's loss.
That brings us to Schumer. He has announced his support for a Senate bill sponsored by Republican Bob Corker of Tennessee that would require congressional approval for any final deal with Iran. Since a veto by President Obama is certain, Republicans will need Democratic support to override it. Schumer, as the Senate minority leader heir-apparent, is sending a clear signal to Democrats that betraying the president is fine, while undermining arguments that the Corker bill is a mere exercise in partisanship.
The fact that Schumer is even daring to try this is surely evidence of the continuing weakness of the Democratic Party's anti-war faction. Even Elizabeth Warren isn't particularly anti-war.
However, pro-war Democrats have consistently underestimated the long-term political danger behind such casual aggressiveness. Just like Cory Booker, Schumer appears to have forgotten that voting for the Iraq War is the reason Hillary Clinton is not president today.
Many good old liberals were absolutely furious with the whole Democratic establishment for voting for Bush's war of aggression and getting something like half a million people killed for no reason. They're not so agitated at the moment, but if Schumer shanks what may be the last best hope at a deal before President Bush III takes the nation on another jolly Middle East crusade, then he will face an enormous backlash. And it should cost him the job he covets so badly.
According to Matt Yglesias, a former Schumer intern, the senator is a "really sincere and committed Israel hawk," and sees himself as dedicated to protecting Israel's security. If that is his motivation, it might be possible to convince Schumer that this Iran bargain is actually in Israel's long-term interests. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thought the Iraq War would be a swell development for Israel, and it turned out to be an epic strategic disaster instead. Chances are that he's wrong about this one, too, like he is about everything else.
But if Schumer can't see reason, then someone else should be Senate minority leader — preferably someone who is more interested in peace than war.