Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (L) holds a bilateral meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) on the second straight day of talks over Tehran's nuclear program in Vienna, on July 14, 2014.
Jum Bourg/AFP/Getty

New group shows how not to debate U.S. policy in Iran

International talks with Iran over nuclear policy are still ongoing, and the status of the diplomacy seems to shift by the day. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told NBC News yesterday, “We believe we are very close, very close, but we could be very far.”
But given the relative progress, it’s not too soon for policymakers around the world to start evaluating the prospect of an agreement. The potential for a historic breakthrough is real, and if a deal comes together, it should be the subject of a spirited debate.
That debate, however, should be mature and reasonable – which means it should be the opposite of the intended direction of the American Security Initiative.
Three former senators have launched a new 501(c)(4) – the American Security Initiative – to pressure policymakers to address the “potential threat posed to America by Iranian nuclear proliferation” – and their first public foray is a chilling one.
The group, headed by former Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and Norm Coleman (R-Minn) is going up [Wednesday] with a $500,000 ad buy insinuating America could be the target of a nuclear attack.
If the ad-makers were aiming for “brazen demagoguery,” they succeeded. The 30-second spot shows a terrorist driving a van into parking garage in an urban building – and then exploding. A narrator tells viewers. “Tell Washington: No Iran nuclear deal without Congressional approval,”
Seriously, Evan Bayh? You chose to be associated with this on purpose?
The ridiculous ad will reportedly air in D.C., Lexington, Ky. and Springfield, Ill., apparently in the hopes of pressuring Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
And if there’s any justice, both the lawmakers and their constituents will ignore such brazen nonsense. It’s the laziest and most offensive way to debate national security: do what I say or terrorists will kill us all.
This is not to say the Iranian deal is beyond reproach. On the contrary, the agreement – if, at some point in the near future, there is an agreement – must be scrutinized closely. It’s among the most important efforts at nuclear diplomacy in a generation.
But the notion that an international agreement to curtail Tehran’s ambitions will necessarily lead to a terrorist attack in America is absurd. Indeed, it seems the “American Security Initiative” thinks so little of our intelligence that it expects shameless fear-mongering to replace reason altogether.
The right really needs to pick up its game in the debate department. Ads like these suggest conservatives haven’t advanced beyond the “mushroom cloud” garbage of 2003.
As for the debate on Capitol Hill, the Senate Republican majority, perhaps overly excited by Benjamin Netanyahu’s appearance this week, decided this week to “move full speed ahead with legislation to give Congress a say in any potential nuclear deal with Iran.”
Congressional Democrats, many of whom actually support the bill, don’t see the point of rushing forward with the bill, and are inclined to give the Obama administration more time to pursue a diplomatic course.