Obama has power to circumvent Congress on Iran nuke deal, analysts say

Even strong bipartisan disapproval by Congress of the Iranian nuclear deal won’t stop President Obama from implementing the agreement, so the vote next month is shaping up as a warning to Europe against resuming business with Tehran before the next U.S. president is elected.

On his Senate website though, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid on Sunday became the highest-profile Democrat to endorse the deal and added that he would attempt to sway other members of his party.

Regardless of Mr. Reid’s vote, clear bipartisan majorities in the House andSenate are lining up against the deal. Even so, Mr. Obama has broad executive authority to ease many sanctions on Iran by himself, analysts say.

“He’s got enormous power to basically circumvent Congress,” said Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a critic of the agreement. “He always had in mind a plan that would not require congressional approval. It couldn’t be stopped, the way the administration has structured this.”

Acting on his own, Mr. Obama can delist Iranian banks, commercial entities and individuals targeted for sanctions. He can order the Treasury Department to give out licenses allowing financial and commercial transactions with Iranian businesses.

The president also could provide sanctions relief for Iranian oil exports by treating legislation passed by Congress in 2012 as unconstitutional.

Section 1245 of the National Defense Authorization Act required the president to freeze assets of Iranian banks, including the Central Bank of Iran, and aimed to reduce Iranian oil revenue by imposing sanctions on foreign banks that carry out “significant financial transactions” with the central bank.

But Mr. Obama issued a “signing statement” on Section 1245 when he approved the overall legislation, stating that he could treat that section as nonbinding because it “would interfere with my constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations.”

“He would challenge Republicans to fight him in the courts,” Mr. Dubowitzsaid. “He would essentially just circumvent that statutory designation and provide significant sanctions relief.”

Mr. Obama, who returned to Washington on Sunday after a two-week vacation, will continue to make his case for the Iranian deal Friday when he addresses Jewish organizations and takes questions in a webcast. The event is sponsored by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Jewish Federations of North America.

In addition to Mr. Reid, the White House picked up the support of Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, after Mr. Obama wrote a letter to the lawmaker offering specific assurances that the U.S. would “take whatever means are necessary” to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, including possible military action.

“As I have repeatedly emphasized, my administration will take whatever means are necessary to achieve that goal, including military means,” Mr. Obama wrote. “Should Iran seek to dash toward a nuclear weapon, all of the options available to the United States — including the military option — will remain available through the life of the deal and beyond.”

Mr. Nadler said Friday that the deal, “for all its flaws,” offers “the best chance of stopping Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.”

Mr. Reid made a similar argument, saying of the deal that it is “the best path to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” and “I have not heard any thoughtful individual argue that this deal is perfect.”

He echoed the Obama administration’s presentation of the deal as a fait accompli and said “critics of the agreement failed to articulate a viable alternative.”

By This article was written by for The Washington Times August 23, 2o15.