Backers of a controversial Senate bill to tighten sanctions on Iran in the midst of nuclear negotiations have consistently argued that their motivation is to strengthen the hand of the administration in the talks, hoping to extract greater concessions from Iran. But the administration and other opponents of the sanctions bill say that the aggressive sanctions, if passed into law, would be more likely to upset the balance of the talks, collapsing them and leading inevitably to war.
The White House has gone so far as to suggest that "[i]f certain members of Congress want the United States to take military action, they should be up front with the American public and say so," rather than hiding behind the claim that they are actually trying to help the administration.
But why would backers of the strong sanctions bill, which is being pushed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, want the negotiations to fail?
That question was answered honestly on Monday by conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer. The preliminary deal struck with Iran is a "catastrophe," he argued, because it is not tough enough on Iran. Worse still, he said, the existence of the negotiations makes it diplomatically and perhaps militarily impossible for Israel to carry out an attack on Iran while talks are under way.
"They're in a very difficult position," Krauthammer said of the Israelis during an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt. "This deal is designed as much by John Kerry and Barack Obama to prevent Israel from defending itself by attacking these facilities as it was supposedly to prevent Iran from going nuclear."
According to Krauthammer, the "only thing" Israel can do to protect itself is attack Iran's nuclear facilities. However, he argued, an Israeli strike is out of the question so long as negotiations are underway.
"If they do, they'll be blamed by the world (a.) for scuttling negotiations, and (b.) perhaps for starting a new war," Krauthammer said. "And they have nobody supporting them, expect perhaps the Gulf Arabs .. The question is, does Israel have the required weaponry to penetrate that airspace in Iran, and then to penetrate deep under ground, where all these facilities are built? The United States does, but it's questionable whether Israel does."
Krauthammer, echoing previous comments he made on Fox News in November, compared the deal to the Munich Agreement of 1938, the settlement reached by European countries to allow Germany to expand its borders. That agreement is widely regarded as an act of appeasement toward the totalitarian state.
"I think the deal is a catastrophe," he said. "I think it is the worst deal since Munich, and I think it might even be more cynical than Munich."
One of the Iran bill's lead cosponsors, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), has used similar Munich rhetoric in pushing for more sanctions. The saber-rattling from Kirk, Krauthammer and other backers of the bill makes it that much harder for Democratic cosponsors to justify supporting the bill on grounds that it advances the peace process.