President Trump will address U.S. policy toward Iran on Thursday, doubtless focusing on his decision regarding Barack Obama’s badly flawed nuclear deal. Key officials are now briefing Congress, the press and foreign governments about the speech, cautioning that the final product is, in fact, not yet final. The preponderant media speculation is that Trump’s senior advisers are positioning him to make a serious mistake, based on their flawed advice. Wishful thinking about Iran’s mullahs, near-religious faith in the power of pieces of paper, and a retreat from executive authority are hallmarks of the impending crash.
In short, Obama’s Iran nuclear deal is poised to become the Trump-Obama deal. The media report that the president will not withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but instead, under the misbegotten Corker-Cardin legislation, will “decertify” that it is in America’s national interest. Congress may then reimpose sanctions, or try somehow to “fix” the deal. Curiously, most of the suggested “fixes” involve repairing Corker-Cardin rather than the JCPOA directly.
Sure, give Congress the lead on Iran. What could go wrong? Whatever the problem with Iran, Congress is not the answer. No president should surrender what the Constitution vests uniquely in him: dominant power to set America’s foreign policy. In the iconic Federalist Number 70, Alexander Hamilton wrote insightfully that “decision, activity, secrecy and dispatch” characterize unitary executive power, and most certainly not the legislative branch. President Trump risks not only forfeiting his leading national-security role, but paralysis, or worse, in the House and Senate.
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