The Iran Deal Had No Binding Force under International or Domestic Law

Susan Rice and Ben Rhodes, both former members of President Obama’s National Security Council, have complained publicly that the current president’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 agreement with Iran “undermines the credibility of the United States” and weakens its reputation. But, as Jack Goldsmith explains, the deal had no binding legal status, and these complaints are without merit:

Presidents have the clear authority to make nonbinding political commitments. That is why I defended the legality of the Iran deal (as opposed to its wisdom) at the time [it was being concluded]. But whenever a president makes an agreement as a political commitment rather than as a binding agreement under international law, he is making a tradeoff. On the one hand, the president can avoid the need for approval from the Senate or Congress and make the international deal despite domestic opposition. On the other hand, a political commitment has no binding force under international or domestic law—and there is thus a danger that it will not be honored by a subsequent president. . . .

The Obama team was aware of this tradeoff, but it knew it had no chance to secure approval for the Iran deal from Congress. . . . For Obama to join the agreement that he thought so crucial to the fate of the world, he needed a constitutional mechanism that avoided the need for approval by Congress: . . . easier to make, easier to break. . . .

[Y]ou don’t get to make an enormously consequential international deal in the face of opposition from Congress, skirt the need for congressional consent by making the agreement nonbinding under domestic and international law, and then complain about a withdrawal from the fragile nonbinding agreement you made when a new president who ran on the issue and won does what a majority of Congress wanted at the time.

Agreements that have the approval of the Senate or Congress tend to be longer-lasting and more durable. . . . The Obama administration . . . pledged the reputation of the nation, even though it knew the Iran deal was nonbinding and lacked approval among the nation’s elected representatives. If the United States’ reputation for upholding agreements takes a hit, the responsibility for that outcome lies squarely with the original decision by the Obama administration to make the hugely consequential deal on its own.

Read more at Lawfare

More about: Barack Obama, International Law, Iran nuclear program, Politics & Current Affairs, Susan Rice, U.S. Constitution, U.S. Foreign policy

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict