The Iran nuclear deal has fallen victim to a long-running political war between the White House and Republican-led Congress, a former top White House aide and nuclear expert says.
Gary Samore, who was forced to step down as president of the lobbying group United Against Nuclear Iran because he supports the agreement, said on August 12 an ongoing power struggle between Congress and the White House had crowded out the "pragmatic center" of legislators and citizens who might find merit with the deal.
"This looks like it will be a straight-out political battle between Republicans and some Democrats against the White House, and that's very unfortunate," he said, speaking of the expected vote in Congress next month in favor of a resolution disapproving the deal.
The expected disapproval of the deal has left the White House scrambling to ensure it has the support of enough Democrats to uphold a presidential veto of the resolution Congress sends him.
Samore is a nonproliferation expert who advised President Barack Obama during his first term and helped devise a strategy to win international support for far-reaching economic sanctions against Iran to force the Islamic republic to the negotiating table.
He was pushed to resign from the anti-Iran group on August 10 because he concluded that strategy succeeded.
Obama "created economic leverage and traded it away for Iranian nuclear concessions," just as planned, he said.
But Samore's decision to support the deal put him at odds with the anti-Iran group he headed, which quickly replaced him with former U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman, a strong opponent of the deal who wants a return to negotiations for a better deal.
While the White House initially strived to persuade Congress and the public to support the deal on its merits, the summary rejection of the accord by congressional Republicans -- in many instances before it was even finalized -- forced Obama to resort to hardball political tactics to ensure the deal survives, Samore said.
The White House "decided that there is no basis to compromise with the Republicans, who are going to oppose this agreement no matter what," he said.
"They have decided that the only strategy that is going to succeed is to appeal to enough Democrats on the left to block a congressional override of the president's veto," he said.
"The most effective political strategy is to make this an antiwar vote" that will appeal to the left wing of the Democratic Party, he said.
That reasoning led to the much-criticized White House tactic of insisting that the only alternative to the deal is war with Iran, or some other unacceptable disaster such as the desertion of the United States by its allies or loss of its dominant economic status.
"I really do think there are solid grounds for reasonable people to come to different conclusions on this agreement," Samore said, but so far few members of Congress appear to be deciding how to vote based on a careful weighing of its pros and cons.