Sen. Robert Menendez deserves the respect and gratitude of all those—Democrat and Republican alike—who cannot abide the thought of a nuclear-armed Iran.
It is fairly obvious that the Obama White House desperately wishes to cut a deal with Iran that will do little more than put off a day of reckoning. Such a deal no doubt would be hailed as a great foreign policy achievement by the appeasers and wishful thinkers in the West and elsewhere.
Mr. Menendez, a Democrat who chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee until his party surrendered control of the body earlier this year, is neither an appeaser nor a wishful thinker. He is a realist who sees no reason to doubt Iran’s stated intention of removing Israel from the map. For that reason, he has been publicly skeptical if not scathing in his assessment of the Obama administration’s negotiations with the Iranians.
“The more I hear from the administration and its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran” the senator said
In mid-January, Mr. Menendez delivered a stinging rebuke of the Obama administration’s rationale for continued engagement with Iran even in the face of foot-dragging and outright defiance from Iranian negotiators. “The more I hear from the administration and its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran,” the senator said during a hearing. “It feeds to the Iranian narrative of victimization when they are the ones with original sin.”
More recently, the senator and President Obama exchanged sharp words over renewed sanctions on Iran during a Democratic Party retreat in Maryland. The president, in essence, accused Mr. Menendez of playing politics rather than standing up for principle. The senator reportedly told the president just how offensive his words were.
Mr. Menendez has long been a clear-eyed critic of Iran’s ambitions in the Middle East. While he and several other Democrats have agreed to hold off on imposing new sanctions against Iran until late March, giving the president some breathing room on negotiations, there’s no question where he stands. He will not be party to an agreement that is not absolutely ironclad. He will not approve a feel-good treaty that weakens Israel’s security.
Challenging the Obama White House from within Democratic Party ranks cannot be easy. Credit Mr. Menendez with a rare sort of political courage, motivated not by political calculation but by pure and simple realism.