By Aryeh Lightstone, Shmuel Winiarz,
and Alexander Glaubach
It is now clear that President Obama has secured sufficient support, not to pass the JCPOA (a.k.a. the Iran Deal), but to sustain a veto. Though a setback, efforts to prevent Iran’s path to nuclear weapon capabilities and its funding of terror are far from over. The majority bipartisan opposition to the flawed deal, coupled with the entire mainstream of American Jewry uniting to demand a better deal, has created significant political capital that can be deployed effectively. There is still much we must do.
On the state level, last week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott demonstrated moral clarity and true leadership, as the governor not only urged the Texas Congressional delegation to oppose the deal, but also upheld states’ rights, in stating he will continue to prevent Texas from investing in Iran or with businesses who invest in Iran.
To understand the state-level opportunities available to deter Iran, a dose of history and constitutional law is in order. In March, the White House categorized the JCPOA as an “executive agreement,” rather than a treaty, with the aim of giving the president more flexibility vis-Ã -vis Congress. A treaty needs two thirds of the Senate to support it. An executive agreement needs only the president’s approval, with only one third of the Senate needed for the president to be able to veto any Senate attempt to block the agreement. To circumvent needing a two-thirds majority, Obama termed it an executive agreement. At the federal level, the president’s constitutional antics seem poised for success, for at least the duration of his term.
President Obama also attempted to negotiate around the procedure of parallel, preexisting state-level sanctions on Iran by inserting the following stipulation in the JCPOA (pg. 15):
25. If a law at the state or local level in the United States is preventing the implementation of the sanctions lifting as specified in this JCPOA, the United States will take appropriate steps, taking into account all available authorities, with a view to achieving such implementation. The United States will actively encourage officials at the state or local level to take into account the changes in the U.S. policy reflected in the lifting of sanctions under this JCPOA and to refrain from actions inconsistent with this change in policy.
However, an executive agreement, in contrast to a treaty, does not bind the states. The president cannot have his uranium cake and eat it too. Every state in the union can now express its opposition to the Iranian regime, not only with words, but with actions. While radio silence is how Governor Cuomo has dealt with the issue, Governor Abbott has stood up and stated he will do whatever necessary to ensure Texas taxpayer dollars will not be used by Iran, or by entities doing business with Iran. “The retirement funds of Texas state employees and teachers will not be complicit in the financing of terrorism across the globe,” Governor Abbott wrote. He further stated that if the deal passes Congress, “I will also be calling on private enterprises across our state to join in refusing to aid a hostile Iranian regime.” Now, we, the American Jewish community, must marshal support in following the Lone Star State. Let it not be just one star, but 50 united stars.
The deal with Iran has a laundry list of flaws. It lacks “anytime, anywhere” inspections, gives only managed access to suspected sites, permits Iran to inspect its own facilities, and allows Iran to continue partially operating sophisticated nuclear equipment. Meanwhile, the economic sanctions are to be removed almost immediately. With the president’s skirting of traditional statecraft, allowing it to pass through Congress, it is time the states exercise their tenth-amendment powers. We must applaud Governor Abbott and emulate his actions in other states, as he fights against the Iranian regime for freedom and for the unbreakable U.S.—Israel relationship. v
Rabbi Aryeh Lightstone is the executive director of Shining City.