The president intends to go to the UN Security Council with the results of his Iran negotiations, looking for purchase and approval of whatever that deal may finally look like. China and Russia, among others, will get their say regarding American policy, in advance of Congress having its voice.
This should come as no surprise for three reasons. The president is not enamored of Congress; not this one, not the one before. Obama, based on recent executive orders, has demonstrated that he sees Congress as an inhibition, not a constitutional necessity. At this point in his presidency he feels no compunction over poking the proverbial stick in the congressional eye. It’s power politics, and as of late, the president has been winning the battles.
The president is, at his core, an internationalist, seeking approval on a wider stage than that provided by America. A weak deal will be approved by Russia and China: by Russia, as a conduit for additional contracts with Iran related to nuclear development; while China, at some level, has committed to significant capital investment in the Islamic Republic. The approval of a weak deal leading to a reduction or elimination of sanctions is clearly in the self- interest of these two countries.
The European contingent will likely go along with a weak deal for two key reasons. As Bret Stephens graphically points out in his book America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder, the Europeans’ love for soft power is actually less love than it is their only realistic option. Europe, for decades, has prioritized the costs of social democracy over the costs of self-defense. In a relatively small conflict in Mali, France’s unpreparedness logistically forced them to seek U.S. aid. You may also recall NATO running short of (read, running out of) munitions during the operation to remove Gaddhafi in Libya. Secondly, Europe has longstanding commercial interests in Iran, and would like to see sanctions removed as a spur to European economies.
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It is a longstanding fear on the part of many that American foreign policy would be subjected to foreign approval. We now appear to have reached that point in time. The president will attempt to accomplish “binding” resolutions by way of the Security Council and thus take approval of a deal with Iran out of the milieu of congressional approval and American public opinion. It is a precedent that enemies and friends alike salivate over: to bring the remaining superpower to heel.