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January 14, 2014 11:29 AM Drifting Towards Another Middle East War?

By Ed Kilgore

As the White House sharpens its criticism of congressional efforts to short-circuit negotiations with Iran via a new sanctions regime, progressives are slowly waking up and smelling the campfire coffee of another Middle East “war of choice.”

In part because active resistance has been limited, there are an awful lot of Democratic fingerprints on the sanctions legislation, and even more de facto defiance of Obama from Democrats who have fallen silent. Here’s how Greg Sargent sums up the current situation:

The basic storyline in recent days has been that the pro-sanctions-bill side is gaining in numbers, while the anti-sanctions-bill side hasn’t — even though the White House has been lobbying Dems very aggressively to back off on this bill, on the grounds that it could imperil the chances for a historic long-term breakthrough with Iran. As Josh Rogin puts it, “the White House’s warnings have had little effect.”
We’re very close now to the 60 votes it needs to pass. The Dem leadership has no plans to bring it to the floor, but there are other procedural ways proponents could try to force a vote. And if the numbers in favor of the bill continue to mount, it could increase pressure on Harry Reid to move it forward. Yes, the president could veto it if it did pass. But we’re actually not all that far away from a veto-proof majority. And in any case, having such a bill pass and get vetoed by the president is presumably not what most Democrats want to see happen.

At TNR, our own Ryan Cooper looks at Cory Booker’s decision to support sanctions, and concludes he’s just not afraid of the heat he will eventually receive from an awakened Democratic Left.

You will hear some Democrats and even a few Republicans claim they are trying to strengthen the adminstration’s hand in their negotiations, but that’s a shuck. The whole idea is to torpedo the talks because Bibi Netanyahu believes they are aimed at the wrong goal: keeping Iran from developing nuclear weapons, as opposed to Bibi’s demand that Iran lose its capability of developing nuclear weapons. If that means war, so be it.

This time around, of course, those in the Democratic Party opposing a drift into war have the White House on their side, and the precedent of what happened when a lot of Democrats supported a similarly avoidable war with Iraq. But if antiwar Democrats don’t start making some real noise, the configuration of forces in Congress will continue to deteriorate, and we could be looking at a war foisted on an unwilling commander-in-chief.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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