By James Morrison
In his State of the Union address, President Obama unified the normally squabbling Democrats and Republicans behind one issue: tougher sanctions on Iran.
Mr. Obama threatened to veto any bill that would levy new economic restrictions on Iran if the theocratic regime cheats during the six-month talks under a deal to curb Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program.
The strongest Democratic criticism came from Howard Dean, a former chairman of the Democratic Party, and from Marc Ginsberg, who served as U.S. ambassador to Morocco under President Bill Clinton.
Mr. Dean called on Mr. Obama the United States to reject any Iranian pressure and to honor U.S. promises to resettle nearly 3,000 Iranian dissidents crowded into a refugee camp in Iraq, where a pro-Iranian government has allowed repeated attacks on the unarmed former Iranian rebels.
The United States in 2003 proposed to protect the dissidents, who formed the armed wing of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. But the Obama administration turned them over to Iraqi administration in 2009.
“We need to stand up to the mullahs!” Mr. Dean told a Capitol Hill hearing of Iranian-American organizations on Wednesday. “This is not the time to exercise cynicism. This is the time to exercise nobility. This is the time to stand up for American greatness.”
Mr.arc Ginsberg warned the White House against falling for the “charm offensive” waged by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
A former U.S. arms-control expert under Republican President George W. Bush called the nuclear deal a “path to failure” because Iran will simply slow the pace of negotiations to secretly pursue its goal of an atomic bomb.
“We’ve seen this movie over and over, and the ending never changes,” Ambassador Robert G. Joseph said at the forum.
Mr. Joseph, a former undersecretary of state for arms control arms and international security, said the deal is likely to fall apart and further tarnish the reputation of the Obama administration among traditional U.S. allies in the Middle East, which fear a nuclear-armed Iran would further destabilize the region.
“Iran will be a nuclear [arms] threshold state. It will have bought time,” he said.
Mr. Joseph also warned that the six-month deal, which went into effect Jan. 20, fails to require Iran to dismantle its nuclear facilities that were enriching uranium to weapons-grade levels. Iran only has to disconnect some of the equipment, and Iranian officials have bragged they that could restart the program with a day.
Mr. Joseph spoke a day after Mr. Obama in his annual State of the Union speech threatened to veto any bill Congress passes to increase economic sanctions on Iran. The House has passed a new sanctions bill, and the Senate is developing a veto-proof majority for its own bill.
Gen. James Jones, a former commandant of the Marine Corps and former NATO commander, warned of the dangers posed by a nuclear Iran.
“We are at a crossroads in our history,” he said. “Today the world is in chaos.”