By Jon Dougherty
(NationalSentinel) Rival factions within the Trump administration are at odds over the State Department’s sanctions waivers that have allowed Iran to continue its most controversial work on nuclear weapons research which includes a secretive military facility that is known to have been the center of the country’s bomb program, multiple U.S. officials familiar with the issue told theÂ Washington Free Beacon.
The Trump administration has, for months, been locked in a protracted battle between various agencies as some officials are pushing for the State Department to end the sanctions waivers while others want them to remain in effect as a means of preserving a portion of the Obama-era ‘nuclear deal’ with the Islamic republic.
But this nuclear loophole battle comes at a time when a Democrat-led House is attempting to restrict commander-in-chief authority vested in Article II of the Constitution as a means of limiting President Donald Trump’s ability to deal, militarily, with Iran should the need arise.
TheÂ Free Beacon noted:
Congressional critics of the landmark nuclear agreement have worked behind the scenes to convince the State Department and Secretary Mike Pompeo to revoke these waivers, particularly in light of Iran’s recent efforts to enrich uranium, the key component in a weapon, to levels necessary to fuel a bomb.
While the White House and State Department are said to be leaning towards ending the nuclear waivers, other elements of the administration are still arguing in their favor, setting up a showdown between these factions, according to multiple sources familiar with the fight.
Republican Iran hawks view the debate as key to the future of the nuclear deal itself. While President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the deal last year, the waivers remain in place and have helped pave the way for Iran to cheat on the accord by continuing nuclear research. With Iran blatantly violating restrictions on the amount of uranium it can enrich in-country, it appears the State Department has shifted to a more hardline approach in line with the White House and National Security Adviser John Bolton, sources confirmed.
“Mike Pompeo’s not stupid,” said one source familiar with the secretary’s thinking, who would speak only on background about ongoing deliberations. “He knows the president wants to kill these waivers and he knows the Deep State is trying to keep them alive to save the deal.”
“In the end, Pompeo is going to be where the president is and it’s a simple equation: â€˜Iran nuclear equals bad,'” the source said. “For a while, some folks were able to persuade Pompeo to keep the waivers going on the argument that revoking them might cause Iran to violate the nuclear deal. Guess whatâ€”they did it anyway with the waivers. So why keep taking arrowsÂ from Capitol Hill for a Deep State cause?”
But this battle now has a new wrinkle — a constitutional wrinkle, in fact. As reported byÂ The Washington Post, the House on Friday voted to advance critical Defense spending legislation with a caveat: RestrainÂ this president from using force against Iran:
The House voted Friday to prevent President Trump from going to war with Iran without congressional approval, after more than two dozen Republicans joined Democrats to include the provision in the Houseâ€™s annual defense authorization bill.
The move sets up a showdown with the Senate over whether the Iran restriction, which includes an exception for cases of self-defense, will be included in the final bill negotiated between the two chambers.
Republican leaders have argued that the move communicates to Tehran that the United States is divided, which could complicate Trumpâ€™s ability to manage escalating tensions. Last month, the president authorized, then called off an airstrike in response to Iran downing a U.S. surveillance drone.
The GOP-led Senate voted down a similar effort to include Iran language in its defense bill last month. But in the Democratic-led House, the Iran measure was one of several that were vital to securing support from liberal members, who had warned they might vote against the must-pass legislation.
And again, though the Post reported “Republican leaders” argued against the provision, “more than two dozen” GOP members of the House voted to place restrictions on a president who has used the militaryÂ the least during his time in office. And there’s the constitutional question as well.
If enough Republicans in the Senate vote with their House colleagues, then it will set up a power struggle that has lasting implications. If POTUS Trump signs the legislation, it would mean setting a precedent that Congress has ‘authority’ to limit a commander-in-chief’s Article II powers; if Trump vetoes the bill it means that Defense Department funding gets held up — again — at a time when our enemies are advancing and Iran is continuing its nuclear work.
If the president vetoes, Democrats (and some Republicans) will politicize the issue and accuse him of being an authoritarian “warmonger” — though, again, Trump has not been quick to use the military at all and despite the fact that it’s Congress attempting to steal power.
Lost in all of it will be the constitutional question of separation of powers and whom the founders delegated authority to protect the country without having to fulfill congressional requirements that have never been asked of previous presidents.
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