By David B. Rivkin, Jr., and Lee A. Casey; July 21, 2015, in The National Interest
The best approach to Iran in the wake of President Obama’s deal is to recognize the complex nature of the problem, and the absolute need for a well-considered and comprehensive approach. The agreement cannot and should not be simply repudiated on the next president’s first day in office, as some Republican presidential contenders have suggested. The agreement is terrible, but once concluded, the national interest requires that it be undone only with care, patience, and masterful diplomacy—an approach championed by Gov. Jeb Bush and Senator Lindsey Graham. Indeed, to suggest otherwise, is to fail to appreciate the full extent of the damage done by the deal and the difficult foreign-policy legacy President Obama is leaving for his successor.
First and foremost, simply abrogating the deal—which already has been enshrined in a Chapter VII UN Security Council Resolution binding on the United States and all members of the United Nations—would actually put the United States in violation of its international obligations and will hand tremendous strategic benefits to Tehran. This may be inevitable, since Russia and China will certainly take advantage of any American action against Iran to score diplomatic and strategic points against us. But, we do not have to make it easy for them, and we should not.
In addition, whatever action the new president takes on January 20, 2017, Iran will remain free of the vast majority of the sanctions that brought it to the bargaining table in the first place. While the next president will be able to vitiate promptly President Obama’s waivers of the existing statutory sanctions—some of which are certain to go beyond his lawful waiver authority—thereby making the existing domestic statutory sanctions available, it would still make sense to consult with Congress on whether the sanctions regime needs adjustment in light of new circumstances.
Although President Obama has ignored Congress, or affirmatively sought to curtail its constitutional prerogatives, the next President should work with Congress and must seek to build a bipartisan consensus on how to meet the Iranian challenge. As Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson wrote in the landmark case of Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer (1952), a president acts at the height of his constitutional authority when working with, rather than against, Congress.