Israeli Operation in Gaza Won’t Strike Lasting Blow Against Hamas, Security Insiders Say

And about two-thirds of the same experts say the president should involve Congress in a nuclear deal with Iran.

Israeli soldiers are seen during a drill on July 22, 2014 by the Israel-Gaza border.
National Journal
Kaveh Waddell
July 22, 2014, 5:38 p.m.

Will the current Israeli operation in Gaza strike a lasting blow against Hamas?

Yes: 12% / No: 88%57 re­sponses

Yes

“The time to weak­en Hamas is right for Is­rael, giv­en Ir­an’s closer threat in Ir­aq.”

“The Is­rael­is will do all they can to decim­ate Hamas. They ex­pect to be con­demned re­gard­less of what they do or don’t do, and are tired of hav­ing their chil­dren run to shel­ters all the time. No one has forced Hamas to fire rock­ets. If they agree to stop, then Is­rael will have far less of a reas­on to seek to elim­in­ate what is a ter­ror­ist group.”

“Last­ing in the sense of six to 12 months, but not much more.”

No

“Is­rael is try­ing to sweep the ocean back with a broom. It will fail without a co­her­ent politico-mil­it­ary strategy to deal with the Palestini­an is­sue.”

“Things that can be bombed are not the source of Hamas’ power.”

“There is no ‘last­ing blow.’ Hamas is an en­trenched polit­ic­al or­gan­iz­a­tion, with sub­stan­tial sup­port in Ga­za, as well as in the West Bank. It is not an or­gan­iz­a­tion that uses ter­ror tac­tics in isol­a­tion from its oth­er gov­ernance activ­it­ies. Each Is­raeli blow prob­ably cre­ates an­oth­er Hamas sup­port­er.”

“The Is­raeli op­er­a­tion is strength­en­ing Hamas.”

“It is an ef­fect­ive en­list­ing device for the next gen­er­a­tion of Hamas fight­ers.”

“And if it does, the Is­rael­is will next face a group even more fer­vently anti-Is­raeli.”

“Hamas and sim­il­ar groups have al­ways demon­strated an op­por­tun­ity to re­con­sti­t­ute them­selves. The un­der­ly­ing prob­lems will still be with us.”

“Hamas is not go­ing away. It an­swers a polit­ic­al need in Ga­za. Is­rael needs to get Ga­za on its eco­nom­ic feet so rad­ic­als like Hamas have less ap­peal.”

“This is just the latest in Is­rael’s war crimes against the Palestini­ans. And once again, the White House simply closes its eyes to the carnage in fear of los­ing pro-Is­raeli votes. Dis­gust­ing.”

“We’ve seen these Is­raeli op­er­a­tions in­to Ga­za be­fore, and they have not sig­ni­fic­antly weakened Hamas’ hold on Ga­za. Hamas will only weak­en if a broad ma­jor­ity of the Ar­ab pop­u­la­tion de­cides that peace with Is­rael is in its best in­terest. There is some move­ment in that dir­ec­tion, but it’s not enough yet.”

“Not last­ing for more than a year or two. Bibi played right in­to Hamas’ hand. He is wholly pre­dict­able. Hamas’ loc­al sup­port is strengthened with the per­ceived over­re­ac­tion, put­ting mod­er­ate Palestini­ans on the de­fens­ive. Is­rael­is need to find a way to take ac­tions that strengthen mod­er­ate Palestini­an fac­tions.”

“Short of full-scale ground in­va­sion and long term oc­cu­pa­tion, lim­ited mil­it­ary strikes will drive Hamas un­der­ground but not de­feat them. Mil­it­ant Hamas ele­ments will only cease strikes against Is­rael when mod­er­ate Palestini­ans and oth­er Ar­ab sup­port­ers pres­sure them enough.”

“The ex­change is simply an­oth­er in­cid­ent that will surely be re­peated un­til Hamas de­cides to seek a last­ing peace.”

“Tough to ima­gine you got a lot of yeses here. Hard to be­lieve ‘strik­ing a last­ing blow against Hamas’ is what Bibi hopes to achieve.”

“Not a last­ing blow in the sense of a per­man­ent blow, but cer­tainly they can knock the wind out of Hamas for a few years, giv­en the group’s already weakened polit­ic­al po­s­i­tion.”

“I would hope, but un­likely.”

“But Is­rael is clearly in­tent on hurt­ing them badly while Hamas is isol­ated in­ter­na­tion­ally.”

“Hamas has the broad sup­port of the Palestini­an people and they are deeply em­bed­ded with the ser­vices they of­fer at the loc­al level; this is matched by fin­an­cial sup­port from across the re­gion by in­di­vidu­als and na­tion states… They will not break; hope­fully they will bend.”

“Ex­per­i­ence in­dic­ates this op­er­a­tion is just one more round of ‘mow­ing the lawn.’ The grass will keep grow­ing back.”

“This is a re­cur­ring cycle that un­for­tu­nately re­peats it­self every three to four years—wash, rinse, re­peat.”

“The con­flict between Is­rael and Hamas will only change its form over time. This is a fight to the fin­ish by both parties, and both ac­know­ledge that they can nev­er win it in any mean­ing­ful way that would al­low them to real­ize their ul­ti­mate goals. And neither sees any com­mon in­terest upon which they could base a last­ing ne­go­ti­ated peace deal. This con­flict ap­proaches Clause­witz’s defin­i­tion of ‘ab­so­lute war’ bet­ter than any oth­er on­go­ing fight.”

“Des­pite all ap­pear­ances, this is not a phys­ic­al, kin­et­ic con­flict. It is a skir­mish in a much broad­er con­flict with broad­er con­text. With 7/24 glob­al in­form­a­tion ubi­quity, as we are ex­posed daily to re­gion­al con­flicts with broad­er con­text, from the Ukraine to Ga­za, we run the risk of de­sens­it­iz­a­tion and loss of rel­ev­ance. To break that pat­tern re­quires cour­age. North­ern Ire­land is far from per­fect, but far bet­ter than it was 20 years ago.”

“Only a last­ing peace set­tle­ment, over time, will have a last­ing ef­fect on Hamas.”

“Ga­za res­id­ents have so much hatred to­ward Is­rael, and are so tol­er­ant of their rad­ic­al and au­thor­it­ari­an lead­ers, that they have yet to be chastened and pur­sue a polit­ic­al solu­tion. Is­rael­is are so angry about Ga­za’s at­tacks that they are un­will­ing to find a ne­go­ti­ated solu­tion.”

The cur­rent Is­raeli op­er­a­tion in Ga­za will not strike a last­ing blow against Hamas, ac­cord­ing to 88 per­cent of Na­tion­al Journ­al‘s Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity In­siders.

Many In­siders see the con­flict between Is­rael and Hamas as cyc­lic­al, an­ti­cip­at­ing that Hamas will re­group and rise again after the Is­raeli of­fens­ive ends. “Wash, rinse, re­peat,” one In­sider said of the op­er­a­tion. An­oth­er re­ferred to a com­monly used meta­phor to de­scribe the con­flict: “This op­er­a­tion is just one more round of ‘mow­ing the lawn.’ The grass will keep grow­ing back.”

Some con­sider the cur­rent con­flict an out­right win for Hamas. “Each Is­raeli blow prob­ably cre­ates an­oth­er Hamas sup­port­er,” one In­sider said. An­oth­er went even fur­ther: “Bibi played right in­to Hamas’ hand. He is wholly pre­dict­able. Hamas’ loc­al sup­port is strengthened with the per­ceived over­re­ac­tion, put­ting mod­er­ate Palestini­ans on the de­fens­ive.”

Hamas’s strength lies in its use­ful­ness to Ga­zans, and the fun­da­ment­al eco­nom­ic and hu­man­it­ari­an prob­lems in the Ga­za Strip are what per­petu­ate its hold on power and the con­flict it­self. Even once the cur­rent op­er­a­tion ends, “the un­der­ly­ing prob­lems will still be with us,” ac­cord­ing to one In­sider.

To make a last­ing dif­fer­ence, some sug­gest al­tern­at­ive ap­proaches. “Hamas is not go­ing away. It an­swers a polit­ic­al need in Ga­za,” one In­sider said. “Is­rael needs to get Ga­za on its eco­nom­ic feet so rad­ic­als like Hamas have less ap­peal.” An­oth­er sug­ges­ted Is­rael take a more prudent polit­ic­al ap­proach: “Is­rael­is need to find a way to take ac­tions that strengthen mod­er­ate Palestini­an fac­tions.”

Gen­er­ally speak­ing, a mil­it­ary op­er­a­tion is by defin­i­tion un­likely to be ef­fect­ive, one In­sider said. “Things that can be bombed are not the source of Hamas’s power.”

Sep­ar­ately, about two-thirds of Se­cur­ity In­siders say that Pres­id­ent Obama should in­volve Con­gress in a nuc­le­ar deal with Ir­an.

Some of the In­siders that sup­port in­volving Con­gress think that con­gres­sion­al ap­prov­al is es­sen­tial to the le­git­im­acy of any nuc­le­ar deal. “Al­though for­eign policy is rightly the pur­view of the ex­ec­ut­ive branch, it can be made stronger if the pres­id­ent gets Con­gress (es­pe­cially its most in­flu­en­tial mem­bers) to sup­port his for­eign policy ini­ti­at­ives,” one In­sider said.

An­oth­er In­sider was wary of the po­ten­tial dam­age to the im­age of the U.S. over­seas if Con­gress re­jec­ted a deal after it was struck. “Bet­ter to swal­low a little polit­ic­al pride and go for con­gres­sion­al ap­prov­al than have an em­bar­rass­ing re­jec­tion, with the risk of a dan­ger­ous glob­al per­cep­tion of U.S. weak­ness and va­cil­la­tion,” the In­sider said.

In­siders see a num­ber of ways the ad­min­is­tra­tion could in­volve Con­gress. It could di­vide and con­quer: “If he can split up Con­gress in­to camps so that Rand Paul, [Ted] Cruz, and [John] Mc­Cain are countered by a few oth­er voices, its a huge plus.” Al­tern­at­ively, the pres­id­ent could in­volve a few con­gres­sion­al lead­ers in the ne­go­ti­ation pro­cess. “Think of the role played by Sen­at­or Lugar and Sen­at­or Nunn in co­oper­at­ive threat re­duc­tion; the is­sue is im­port­ant enough for the next gen­er­a­tion of lead­er­ship to step up.”

If Obama neg­lects to en­gage with Con­gress, there is more danger than just a large-scale for­eign policy fail­ure, ac­cord­ing to one In­sider. “He has no choice,” this In­sider said. “If he does not, he will face im­peach­ment after the midterm elec­tion.”

Ac­cord­ing to one In­sider, con­gres­sion­al in­volve­ment in the deal is a chance for Wash­ing­ton to work as it should. “Could it be that this will be one of those rare cases where our sys­tem of rep­res­ent­at­ive gov­ern­ment works, in this case to pro­tect and ad­vance core U.S. na­tion­al in­terests?” the In­sider asked. “Let us hope so.”

While two-thirds of Se­cur­ity In­siders re­com­men­ded that Obama work with Con­gress on the deal, the re­main­ing third ad­vised the pres­id­ent to stay away. “He’s the com­mand­er in chief and has to act like one—Con­gress will al­ways provide noise from the side­lines, but this is a time for the pres­id­ent to ex­er­cise lead­er­ship and act in the best in­terests of the coun­try,” one In­sider said.

Ac­know­ledging that Con­gress would even­tu­ally have to get in­volved in or­der to lift sanc­tions, these In­siders urged the pres­id­ent to keep the pro­cess out of the hands of Con­gress as long as pos­sible. And ac­cord­ing to one, even though Con­gress is agit­at­ing for a role in the deal, it doesn’t really want to play a part. “This is a no-win situ­ation, and Con­gress doesn’t want to be in­volved in such ac­tions (even if they say they do) as then it simply forces them in­to hav­ing to take polit­ic­ally dif­fi­cult po­s­i­tions. See, e.g., strikes in Syr­ia.”

And one In­sider found fault with this spe­cif­ic Con­gress. Asked wheth­er it should be in­volved, the In­sider said, “In prin­ciple, yes. Giv­en this par­tic­u­lar Con­gress and the in­terests in­flu­en­cing it—no.”

Will the cur­rent Is­raeli op­er­a­tion in Ga­za strike a last­ing blow against Hamas?

Yes: 12% / No: 88%57 re­sponses

Yes

“The time to weak­en Hamas is right for Is­rael, giv­en Ir­an’s closer threat in Ir­aq.”

“The Is­rael­is will do all they can to decim­ate Hamas. They ex­pect to be con­demned re­gard­less of what they do or don’t do, and are tired of hav­ing their chil­dren run to shel­ters all the time. No one has forced Hamas to fire rock­ets. If they agree to stop, then Is­rael will have far less of a reas­on to seek to elim­in­ate what is a ter­ror­ist group.”

“Last­ing in the sense of six to 12 months, but not much more.”

No

“Is­rael is try­ing to sweep the ocean back with a broom. It will fail without a co­her­ent politico-mil­it­ary strategy to deal with the Palestini­an is­sue.”

“Things that can be bombed are not the source of Hamas’ power.”

“There is no ‘last­ing blow.’ Hamas is an en­trenched polit­ic­al or­gan­iz­a­tion, with sub­stan­tial sup­port in Ga­za, as well as in the West Bank. It is not an or­gan­iz­a­tion that uses ter­ror tac­tics in isol­a­tion from its oth­er gov­ernance activ­it­ies. Each Is­raeli blow prob­ably cre­ates an­oth­er Hamas sup­port­er.”

“The Is­raeli op­er­a­tion is strength­en­ing Hamas.”

“It is an ef­fect­ive en­list­ing device for the next gen­er­a­tion of Hamas fight­ers.”

“And if it does, the Is­rael­is will next face a group even more fer­vently anti-Is­raeli.”

“Hamas and sim­il­ar groups have al­ways demon­strated an op­por­tun­ity to re­con­sti­t­ute them­selves. The un­der­ly­ing prob­lems will still be with us.”

“Hamas is not go­ing away. It an­swers a polit­ic­al need in Ga­za. Is­rael needs to get Ga­za on its eco­nom­ic feet so rad­ic­als like Hamas have less ap­peal.”

“This is just the latest in Is­rael’s war crimes against the Palestini­ans. And once again, the White House simply closes its eyes to the carnage in fear of los­ing pro-Is­raeli votes. Dis­gust­ing.”

“We’ve seen these Is­raeli op­er­a­tions in­to Ga­za be­fore, and they have not sig­ni­fic­antly weakened Hamas’ hold on Ga­za. Hamas will only weak­en if a broad ma­jor­ity of the Ar­ab pop­u­la­tion de­cides that peace with Is­rael is in its best in­terest. There is some move­ment in that dir­ec­tion, but it’s not enough yet.”

“Not last­ing for more than a year or two. Bibi played right in­to Hamas’ hand. He is wholly pre­dict­able. Hamas’ loc­al sup­port is strengthened with the per­ceived over­re­ac­tion, put­ting mod­er­ate Palestini­ans on the de­fens­ive. Is­rael­is need to find a way to take ac­tions that strengthen mod­er­ate Palestini­an fac­tions.”

“Short of full-scale ground in­va­sion and long term oc­cu­pa­tion, lim­ited mil­it­ary strikes will drive Hamas un­der­ground but not de­feat them. Mil­it­ant Hamas ele­ments will only cease strikes against Is­rael when mod­er­ate Palestini­ans and oth­er Ar­ab sup­port­ers pres­sure them enough.”

“The ex­change is simply an­oth­er in­cid­ent that will surely be re­peated un­til Hamas de­cides to seek a last­ing peace.”

“Tough to ima­gine you got a lot of yeses here. Hard to be­lieve ‘strik­ing a last­ing blow against Hamas’ is what Bibi hopes to achieve.”

“Not a last­ing blow in the sense of a per­man­ent blow, but cer­tainly they can knock the wind out of Hamas for a few years, giv­en the group’s already weakened polit­ic­al po­s­i­tion.”

“I would hope, but un­likely.”

“But Is­rael is clearly in­tent on hurt­ing them badly while Hamas is isol­ated in­ter­na­tion­ally.”

“Hamas has the broad sup­port of the Palestini­an people and they are deeply em­bed­ded with the ser­vices they of­fer at the loc­al level; this is matched by fin­an­cial sup­port from across the re­gion by in­di­vidu­als and na­tion states… They will not break; hope­fully they will bend.”

“Ex­per­i­ence in­dic­ates this op­er­a­tion is just one more round of ‘mow­ing the lawn.’ The grass will keep grow­ing back.”

“This is a re­cur­ring cycle that un­for­tu­nately re­peats it­self every three to four years—wash, rinse, re­peat.”

“The con­flict between Is­rael and Hamas will only change its form over time. This is a fight to the fin­ish by both parties, and both ac­know­ledge that they can nev­er win it in any mean­ing­ful way that would al­low them to real­ize their ul­ti­mate goals. And neither sees any com­mon in­terest upon which they could base a last­ing ne­go­ti­ated peace deal. This con­flict ap­proaches Clause­witz’s defin­i­tion of ‘ab­so­lute war’ bet­ter than any oth­er on­go­ing fight.”

“Des­pite all ap­pear­ances, this is not a phys­ic­al, kin­et­ic con­flict. It is a skir­mish in a much broad­er con­flict with broad­er con­text. With 7/24 glob­al in­form­a­tion ubi­quity, as we are ex­posed daily to re­gion­al con­flicts with broad­er con­text, from the Ukraine to Ga­za, we run the risk of de­sens­it­iz­a­tion and loss of rel­ev­ance. To break that pat­tern re­quires cour­age. North­ern Ire­land is far from per­fect, but far bet­ter than it was 20 years ago.”

“Only a last­ing peace set­tle­ment, over time, will have a last­ing ef­fect on Hamas.”

“Ga­za res­id­ents have so much hatred to­ward Is­rael, and are so tol­er­ant of their rad­ic­al and au­thor­it­ari­an lead­ers, that they have yet to be chastened and pur­sue a polit­ic­al solu­tion. Is­rael­is are so angry about Ga­za’s at­tacks that they are un­will­ing to find a ne­go­ti­ated solu­tion.”

Should Pres­id­ent Obama in­volve Con­gress in a nuc­le­ar deal with Ir­an?

Yes: 65% / No: 35%57 re­sponses

Yes

“Al­though for­eign policy is rightly the pur­view of the ex­ec­ut­ive branch, it can be made stronger if the pres­id­ent gets Con­gress (es­pe­cially its most in­flu­en­tial mem­bers) to sup­port his for­eign policy ini­ti­at­ives. This is par­tic­u­larly true in the case of con­tro­ver­sial for­eign policy is­sues—and any nuc­le­ar deal with Ir­an would cer­tainly be con­tro­ver­sial. In this case, the pres­id­ent should not only in­volve Con­gress, but he should act­ively so­li­cit the views of key mem­bers who can provide in­sights and ex­per­i­ences he and the ad­min­is­tra­tion are lack­ing.”

“Any agree­ment with the Ir­a­ni­ans will be con­tro­ver­sial and set the re­la­tion­ship for years to come. Bet­ter to swal­low a little polit­ic­al pride and go for con­gres­sion­al ap­prov­al than have an em­bar­rass­ing re­jec­tion, with the risk of a dan­ger­ous glob­al per­cep­tion of U.S. weak­ness and va­cil­la­tion.”

“Any nuc­le­ar deal with Ir­an will in­volve con­stant charges by some in Con­gress, likely not without mer­it in some in­stances, of Ir­a­ni­an non­com­pli­ance with the ac­cord, or of weak­nesses or am­bi­gu­ities in it. The best way for the pres­id­ent to pro­tect his in­terests and sus­tain U.S. do­mest­ic polit­ic­al for the ac­cord will be to in­volve Con­gress early. In ne­go­ti­ations with the USSR and then Rus­sia on stra­tegic arms, the Sen­ate and House cre­ated arms con­trol ob­serv­er groups which met reg­u­larly with the ne­go­ti­at­ors, cre­at­ing stake­hold­er sup­port pri­or to sub­mis­sion of treat­ies to the Sen­ate for ad­vice and con­sent. This mod­el should be fol­lowed for the Ir­a­ni­an ne­go­ti­ations.”

“At a min­im­um, you would think the pres­id­ent would want to build sup­port for a ‘deal.’ But I be­lieve it is un­likely that the pres­id­ent will in­volve Con­gress in any mean­ing­ful way.

“At the very least, [Sec­ret­ary of State John] Kerry should seek con­cur­rence on a deal with Ir­an from the Sen­ate. It is the duty and con­sti­tu­tion­al re­quire­ment of the Sen­ate to provide ad­vice and con­sent on mat­ters of na­tion­al im­port­ance.”

“But nar­rowly fo­cused on lead­er­ship who can make a dif­fer­ence and add value in the re­gion; think of the role played by Sen­at­or Lugar and Sen­at­or Nunn in co­oper­at­ive threat re­duc­tion; the is­sue is im­port­ant enough for the next gen­er­a­tion of lead­er­ship to step up.”

“Even though it’s polit­ic­ally pain­ful, and Con­gress bor­ders on in­com­pet­ence and dys­func­tion, it is bet­ter to bring the lead­ers in and at­tempt to edu­cate them. If he can split up Con­gress in­to camps so that Rand Paul, [Ted] Cruz, and [John] Mc­Cain are countered by a few oth­er voices, its a huge plus. If Con­gress does the pre­dict­able thing of cri­ti­ciz­ing but run­ning away from tak­ing any real ac­tion, Obama can say that at least he tried.”

“He has no al­tern­at­ive to in­volving Con­gress, be­cause he’s go­ing to need le­gis­la­tion to lift all the sanc­tions that Ir­an will in­sist be re­moved. This is a di­lemma for the ad­min­is­tra­tion, of course, be­cause the only deal they can real­ist­ic­ally cut is a bad deal for the U.S., and Con­gress (not sur­pris­ingly) is go­ing to res­ist ap­prov­ing such a deal. Could it be that this will be one of those rare cases where our sys­tem of rep­res­ent­at­ive gov­ern­ment works in this case to pro­tect and ad­vance core U.S. na­tion­al in­terests? Let us hope so.”

“He has no choice. If he does not he will face im­peach­ment after the midterm elec­tion.”

“He is too de­term­ined to get a deal, come what may. Which means it will be a bad deal.”

“If he doesn’t, Con­gress will un­der­mine whatever deal he strikes, so he’s bet­ter off in­volving them from the be­gin­ning.”

“It’s not that the pres­id­ent should in­volve Con­gress, it’s that Con­gress will be in­volved re­gard­less. Con­gres­sion­al ac­tion will either sup­port or un­der­mine any deal that’s agreed to. By ex­tend­ing the talks past the Novem­ber midterm U.S. elec­tions, at least the pres­id­ent will know which Sen­ate he’s deal­ing with in the 114th Con­gress (or maybe he won’t—it might all come down to the Decem­ber run­off in Louisi­ana).”

“Oth­er­wise, do­mest­ic polit­ics could eas­ily shoot down a for­eign policy suc­cess. The ad­min­is­tra­tion ought to be bring­ing key mem­bers of the Sen­ate on board now, with brief­ings and back­ground­ers. But they prob­ably are not do­ing that, which will not help later.”

“Pres­id­ent Obama is in a no-win po­s­i­tion with Con­gress. No mat­ter what agree­ment is reached, it will not be good enough for some ele­ments in Con­gress. But, if he fails to in­volve Con­gress, polit­ic­al out­cry will be over­whelm­ing. Obama should use con­gres­sion­al ap­prov­al of any agree­ment as a tool to pres­sure Ir­an in­to a bet­ter agree­ment.”

“To be prag­mat­ic, yes. But it does de­pend on the nature of the ‘deal.’ “

“Yes, but as little as re­quired by law.”

No

“He’s the com­mand­er in chief and has to act like one—Con­gress will al­ways provide noise from the side­lines, but this is a time for the pres­id­ent to ex­er­cise lead­er­ship and act in the best in­terests of the coun­try.”

“In­volving Con­gress in on­go­ing for­eign policy ne­go­ti­ations is nev­er a good idea.”

“Not if he can help it. But Con­gress may have to get in­volved to lift sanc­tions.”

“The less in­volved Con­gress is for the time be­ing, the less risk there will be of Con­gress caus­ing the ne­go­ti­at­ing pro­cess to col­lapse. Even­tu­ally, there will need to be le­gis­lat­ive ac­tion for sanc­tions re­lief, but that can wait.”

“In prin­ciple, yes. Giv­en this par­tic­u­lar Con­gress and the in­terests in­flu­en­cing it—no.”

“Avoid the knee-jerk un­crit­ic­ally pro-Is­rael lobby as much as pos­sible. The U.S. has im­port­ant, stand-alone in­terests with Ir­an (e.g., sta­bil­iz­ing Afgh­anistan) which shouldn’t be host­age to AIPAC’s views.”

“His track re­cord in reach­ing set­tle­ments and es­tab­lish­ing red lines or lines in the sand is not strong. The con­tinu­ing vex­ing is­sue is that he will likely need con­gres­sion­al ap­prov­al for any sub­stant­ive agree­ment that as­cends to the treaty level. Good luck.”

“This is a no-win situ­ation, and Con­gress doesn’t want to be in­volved in such ac­tions (even if they say they do) as then it simply forces them in­to hav­ing to take polit­ic­ally dif­fi­cult po­s­i­tions. See, e.g., strikes in Syr­ia.”

Na­tion­al Journ­al’s Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity In­siders Poll is a peri­od­ic sur­vey of more than 100 de­fense and for­eign policy ex­perts. They in­clude: Gor­don Adams, Charles Al­len, Mi­chael Al­len, Thad Al­len, Gra­ham Al­lis­on, James Bam­ford, Dav­id Barno, Milt Bearden, Peter Ber­gen, Samuel “Sandy” Ber­ger, Dav­id Ber­teau, Steph­en Biddle, Nancy Bird­sall, Mari­on Blakey, Kit Bond, Stu­art Bowen, Mike Breen, Paula Broad­well, Mark Brun­ner, Nich­olas Burns, Dan By­man, James Jay Cara­fano, Phil­lip Carter, Wendy Cham­ber­lin, Mi­chael Cher­toff, Frank Cil­luffo, James Clad, Richard Clarke, Steve Clem­ons, Joseph Collins, Wil­li­am Court­ney, Lorne Cran­er, Ro­ger Cres­sey, Gregory Dahl­berg, Robert Dan­in, Richard Dan­zig, Jan­ine Dav­id­son, Daniel Drezn­er, Mack­en­zie Eaglen, Paul Eaton, An­drew Ex­um, Eric Farns­worth, Jacques Gansler, Steph­en Gan­yard, Daniel Goure, Mark Green, Mike Green, Mark Gun­zinger, John Hamre, Jim Harp­er, Todd Har­ris­on, Marty Haus­er, Mi­chael Hay­den, Mi­chael Her­son, Pete Hoek­stra, Bruce Hoff­man, Paul Hughes, Mark Jack­son, Colin Kahl, Don­ald Ker­rick, Rachel Klein­feld, Lawrence Korb, An­drew Kre­pinev­ich, Charlie Kupchan, W. Patrick Lang, Cedric Leighton, Mi­chael Leit­er, James Lind­say, Justin Lo­gan, Trent Lott, Peter Mansoor, Ron­ald Marks, Bri­an Mc­Caf­frey, Steven Metz, Frank­lin Miller, Mi­chael Mo­rell, Philip Mudd, John Nagl, Shuja Nawaz, Kev­in Neal­er, Mi­chael Oates, Thomas Pick­er­ing, Paul Pil­lar, Larry Pri­or, Steph­en Rade­maker, Marc Rai­mondi, Celina Realuyo, Barry Rhoads, Wil­helm Richard, Bruce Riedel, Marc Ro­ten­berg, Frank Rug­giero, Gary Sam­ore, Kori Schake, Mark Schneider, Tammy Schultz, John Scofield, Steph­en Ses­t­an­ovich, Sarah Se­wall, Mat­thew Sher­man, Jen­nifer Sims, Su­z­anne Spauld­ing, James Stav­rid­is, Con­stan­ze Stelzen­müller, Ted Stroup, Guy Swan, Frances Town­send, Mick Train­or, Tamara Wittes, Dov Za­kheim, and Juan Za­r­ate.

Should President Obama involve Congress in a nuclear deal with Iran?

Yes: 65% / No: 35%57 re­sponses

Yes

“Al­though for­eign policy is rightly the pur­view of the ex­ec­ut­ive branch, it can be made stronger if the pres­id­ent gets Con­gress (es­pe­cially its most in­flu­en­tial mem­bers) to sup­port his for­eign policy ini­ti­at­ives. This is par­tic­u­larly true in the case of con­tro­ver­sial for­eign policy is­sues—and any nuc­le­ar deal with Ir­an would cer­tainly be con­tro­ver­sial. In this case, the pres­id­ent should not only in­volve Con­gress, but he should act­ively so­li­cit the views of key mem­bers who can provide in­sights and ex­per­i­ences he and the ad­min­is­tra­tion are lack­ing.”

“Any agree­ment with the Ir­a­ni­ans will be con­tro­ver­sial and set the re­la­tion­ship for years to come. Bet­ter to swal­low a little polit­ic­al pride and go for con­gres­sion­al ap­prov­al than have an em­bar­rass­ing re­jec­tion, with the risk of a dan­ger­ous glob­al per­cep­tion of U.S. weak­ness and va­cil­la­tion.”

“Any nuc­le­ar deal with Ir­an will in­volve con­stant charges by some in Con­gress, likely not without mer­it in some in­stances, of Ir­a­ni­an non­com­pli­ance with the ac­cord, or of weak­nesses or am­bi­gu­ities in it. The best way for the pres­id­ent to pro­tect his in­terests and sus­tain U.S. do­mest­ic polit­ic­al for the ac­cord will be to in­volve Con­gress early. In ne­go­ti­ations with the USSR and then Rus­sia on stra­tegic arms, the Sen­ate and House cre­ated arms con­trol ob­serv­er groups which met reg­u­larly with the ne­go­ti­at­ors, cre­at­ing stake­hold­er sup­port pri­or to sub­mis­sion of treat­ies to the Sen­ate for ad­vice and con­sent. This mod­el should be fol­lowed for the Ir­a­ni­an ne­go­ti­ations.”

“At a min­im­um, you would think the pres­id­ent would want to build sup­port for a ‘deal.’ But I be­lieve it is un­likely that the pres­id­ent will in­volve Con­gress in any mean­ing­ful way.

“At the very least, [Sec­ret­ary of State John] Kerry should seek con­cur­rence on a deal with Ir­an from the Sen­ate. It is the duty and con­sti­tu­tion­al re­quire­ment of the Sen­ate to provide ad­vice and con­sent on mat­ters of na­tion­al im­port­ance.”

“But nar­rowly fo­cused on lead­er­ship who can make a dif­fer­ence and add value in the re­gion; think of the role played by Sen­at­or Lugar and Sen­at­or Nunn in co­oper­at­ive threat re­duc­tion; the is­sue is im­port­ant enough for the next gen­er­a­tion of lead­er­ship to step up.”

“Even though it’s polit­ic­ally pain­ful, and Con­gress bor­ders on in­com­pet­ence and dys­func­tion, it is bet­ter to bring the lead­ers in and at­tempt to edu­cate them. If he can split up Con­gress in­to camps so that Rand Paul, [Ted] Cruz, and [John] Mc­Cain are countered by a few oth­er voices, its a huge plus. If Con­gress does the pre­dict­able thing of cri­ti­ciz­ing but run­ning away from tak­ing any real ac­tion, Obama can say that at least he tried.”

“He has no al­tern­at­ive to in­volving Con­gress, be­cause he’s go­ing to need le­gis­la­tion to lift all the sanc­tions that Ir­an will in­sist be re­moved. This is a di­lemma for the ad­min­is­tra­tion, of course, be­cause the only deal they can real­ist­ic­ally cut is a bad deal for the U.S., and Con­gress (not sur­pris­ingly) is go­ing to res­ist ap­prov­ing such a deal. Could it be that this will be one of those rare cases where our sys­tem of rep­res­ent­at­ive gov­ern­ment works in this case to pro­tect and ad­vance core U.S. na­tion­al in­terests? Let us hope so.”

“He has no choice. If he does not he will face im­peach­ment after the midterm elec­tion.”

“He is too de­term­ined to get a deal, come what may. Which means it will be a bad deal.”

“If he doesn’t, Con­gress will un­der­mine whatever deal he strikes, so he’s bet­ter off in­volving them from the be­gin­ning.”

“It’s not that the pres­id­ent should in­volve Con­gress, it’s that Con­gress will be in­volved re­gard­less. Con­gres­sion­al ac­tion will either sup­port or un­der­mine any deal that’s agreed to. By ex­tend­ing the talks past the Novem­ber midterm U.S. elec­tions, at least the pres­id­ent will know which Sen­ate he’s deal­ing with in the 114th Con­gress (or maybe he won’t—it might all come down to the Decem­ber run­off in Louisi­ana).”

“Oth­er­wise, do­mest­ic polit­ics could eas­ily shoot down a for­eign policy suc­cess. The ad­min­is­tra­tion ought to be bring­ing key mem­bers of the Sen­ate on board now, with brief­ings and back­ground­ers. But they prob­ably are not do­ing that, which will not help later.”

“Pres­id­ent Obama is in a no-win po­s­i­tion with Con­gress. No mat­ter what agree­ment is reached, it will not be good enough for some ele­ments in Con­gress. But, if he fails to in­volve Con­gress, polit­ic­al out­cry will be over­whelm­ing. Obama should use con­gres­sion­al ap­prov­al of any agree­ment as a tool to pres­sure Ir­an in­to a bet­ter agree­ment.”

“To be prag­mat­ic, yes. But it does de­pend on the nature of the ‘deal.’ “

“Yes, but as little as re­quired by law.”

No

“He’s the com­mand­er in chief and has to act like one—Con­gress will al­ways provide noise from the side­lines, but this is a time for the pres­id­ent to ex­er­cise lead­er­ship and act in the best in­terests of the coun­try.”

“In­volving Con­gress in on­go­ing for­eign policy ne­go­ti­ations is nev­er a good idea.”

“Not if he can help it. But Con­gress may have to get in­volved to lift sanc­tions.”

“The less in­volved Con­gress is for the time be­ing, the less risk there will be of Con­gress caus­ing the ne­go­ti­at­ing pro­cess to col­lapse. Even­tu­ally, there will need to be le­gis­lat­ive ac­tion for sanc­tions re­lief, but that can wait.”

“In prin­ciple, yes. Giv­en this par­tic­u­lar Con­gress and the in­terests in­flu­en­cing it—no.”

“Avoid the knee-jerk un­crit­ic­ally pro-Is­rael lobby as much as pos­sible. The U.S. has im­port­ant, stand-alone in­terests with Ir­an (e.g., sta­bil­iz­ing Afgh­anistan) which shouldn’t be host­age to AIPAC’s views.”

“His track re­cord in reach­ing set­tle­ments and es­tab­lish­ing red lines or lines in the sand is not strong. The con­tinu­ing vex­ing is­sue is that he will likely need con­gres­sion­al ap­prov­al for any sub­stant­ive agree­ment that as­cends to the treaty level. Good luck.”

“This is a no-win situ­ation, and Con­gress doesn’t want to be in­volved in such ac­tions (even if they say they do) as then it simply forces them in­to hav­ing to take polit­ic­ally dif­fi­cult po­s­i­tions. See, e.g., strikes in Syr­ia.”

Na­tion­al Journ­al’s Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity In­siders Poll is a peri­od­ic sur­vey of more than 100 de­fense and for­eign policy ex­perts. They in­clude: Gor­don Adams, Charles Al­len, Mi­chael Al­len, Thad Al­len, Gra­ham Al­lis­on, James Bam­ford, Dav­id Barno, Milt Bearden, Peter Ber­gen, Samuel “Sandy” Ber­ger, Dav­id Ber­teau, Steph­en Biddle, Nancy Bird­sall, Mari­on Blakey, Kit Bond, Stu­art Bowen, Mike Breen, Paula Broad­well, Mark Brun­ner, Nich­olas Burns, Dan By­man, James Jay Cara­fano, Phil­lip Carter, Wendy Cham­ber­lin, Mi­chael Cher­toff, Frank Cil­luffo, James Clad, Richard Clarke, Steve Clem­ons, Joseph Collins, Wil­li­am Court­ney, Lorne Cran­er, Ro­ger Cres­sey, Gregory Dahl­berg, Robert Dan­in, Richard Dan­zig, Jan­ine Dav­id­son, Daniel Drezn­er, Mack­en­zie Eaglen, Paul Eaton, An­drew Ex­um, Eric Farns­worth, Jacques Gansler, Steph­en Gan­yard, Daniel Goure, Mark Green, Mike Green, Mark Gun­zinger, John Hamre, Jim Harp­er, Todd Har­ris­on, Marty Haus­er, Mi­chael Hay­den, Mi­chael Her­son, Pete Hoek­stra, Bruce Hoff­man, Paul Hughes, Mark Jack­son, Colin Kahl, Don­ald Ker­rick, Rachel Klein­feld, Lawrence Korb, An­drew Kre­pinev­ich, Charlie Kupchan, W. Patrick Lang, Cedric Leighton, Mi­chael Leit­er, James Lind­say, Justin Lo­gan, Trent Lott, Peter Mansoor, Ron­ald Marks, Bri­an Mc­Caf­frey, Steven Metz, Frank­lin Miller, Mi­chael Mo­rell, Philip Mudd, John Nagl, Shuja Nawaz, Kev­in Neal­er, Mi­chael Oates, Thomas Pick­er­ing, Paul Pil­lar, Larry Pri­or, Steph­en Rade­maker, Marc Rai­mondi, Celina Realuyo, Barry Rhoads, Wil­helm Richard, Bruce Riedel, Marc Ro­ten­berg, Frank Rug­giero, Gary Sam­ore, Kori Schake, Mark Schneider, Tammy Schultz, John Scofield, Steph­en Ses­t­an­ovich, Sarah Se­wall, Mat­thew Sher­man, Jen­nifer Sims, Su­z­anne Spauld­ing, James Stav­rid­is, Con­stan­ze Stelzen­müller, Ted Stroup, Guy Swan, Frances Town­send, Mick Train­or, Tamara Wittes, Dov Za­kheim, and Juan Za­r­ate.

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