President Obama has clinched his historic diplomatic victory. As of today, 42 Democratic senators now support the Iran nuclear deal.
This means that Obama may well have enough votes to filibuster the GOP’s No resolution into permanent limbo. And even if the No resolution passes, Obama has more than enough Senate votes to sustain his inevitable veto.
In other words, the Iran deal is a done deal. Even though congressional debate starts today, the No forces are already beaten.
One big reason why Obama has won – and why the No forces have failed to sway a sufficient number of Democrats to their side – is because it became abundantly clear this summer that right-wing Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu didn’t speak for the Israeli security establishment. Yeah, Bibi has a lot of cred with the Israeli hawks, and he’s tight with America’s neoconservatives, but his (failed) quest to kill the nuke deal alienated a lot of the major security players – people like Amos Yadlin, a former military intelligence chief; Efraim Halevy, a former head of the Mossad intel agency; Yitzhak Ben-Yisrael, a former arms technology chief; and Ami Ayalon, a former director of the Shin Bet domestic security service.
Ayalon was in Philadelphia late last month, and we talked. A decorated commando and, in addition to his Shin Bet stint, a former chief of the Israeli Navy, he’s hardly a knee-jerk peacenik. Heck, at age 69, he has forearms like Popeye. He told me, “The deal is done. Not because the deal is perfect, there is no perfect deal. There is no ideal world, and there are no ideal agreements. But it dramatically improves Israel’s situation.”
He took a big swipe at Bibi and the Republicans: “To kill the deal is to kill American leadership in the Middle East region. Their assumption that we should simply reject this deal, and that we could then go back and negotiate a better deal? This is nonsense. This (argument) can only be heard from a person who does not understand anything about Iran.” He pointed out that if America were to reject the deal, the allies would lift their sanctions anyway; if that were to happen, Iran would be rolling in money and free to accelerate its nuke program – “and that would create huge damage for the security of Israel.”
The far better alternative, Ayalon said, is to support the deal and vigilantly monitor Iran over the next 15 years: “Iran is the most educated society in the region….The people in Iran who want to see their country become more open and democratic are the younger generation. This is about demography. It takes time to change a country, and the deal gives us time (to nurture that change). The fact that, with this deal, more people from the West will be in Iran, the fact that Iran will be more open – it creates opportunities for us. We (in Israel) are so good at looking at risk, we’ve forgotten how to create opportunities.”
But what really bugs him most about Bibi – who was his boss when he ran the domestic security service – is the way Bibi has fouled relations with the American president. Partisanizing the Iran issue from the podium of the Republican House…that wasn’t a smart move. Ayalon told me, “Every child in Israel knows that our alliance with America is a cornerstone of our security. But in the last few years, we have been destroying it.”
Ayalon was reluctant to condemn Bibi’s scare tactics – although he recently said of Bibi, “it’s very easy to play with fears in a fearful society” – because he believes that a lowering of tensions with the White House would be the best way forward. The deal is done, “and instead of fighting each other, we need to create the best intelligence cooperation we can possibly achieve, to ensure compliance, to allow us to know everything the Iranians are doing. We can do that only by joining forces.”
Behind the scenes, he said, that’s how Israeli security experts feel about the deal: “Within the security community – the people who have spent most of their lives in the community, my age and younger – I represent the majority (opinion). It is common among my security friends. And among the military generals, there are many who see opportunities and who believe that Netanyahu is destroying our alliance with America….But now is the time to cooperate.”
Alas, the No forces don’t listen to that kind of reason. Heck, they don’t even seem to know how to count votes – which explains why national security experts like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are rallying today at the Capitol to kill a deal that’s destined to be sustained. Republicans are so good at harnessing futility. Maybe they should listen to someone like Ayalon, who said earlier this summer: “When the Messiah comes, things will be wonderful. In the meantime, we need to be practical.”
Celebrity homophobe Kim Davis, at her free-at-last rally yesterday afternoon: “We serve a living God who knows exactly where each and every one of us is at.”
And here I thought it was just the NSA.
I do hope, however, that He can coax Kim to clean up her dangling prepositions.
Hillary Clinton yesterday, on her use of a personal email account: “That was a mistake. I’m sorry about that. I take responsibility.”
Translation: “I used the s-word only because my poll numbers are down.”
Likely Republican reaction: “A polygraph would show us whether her sorry is sincere. Why won’t she take one?”