The President’s First Test of the U.S.-Iran Relationship

The President’s First Test of the U.S.-Iran Relationship

Analysis: When leaders refuse to leave the stage, nothing will bring them down.


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FILE – In this Jan. 11, 2014 file photo, U.S. President Barack Obama walks on a flight through the White House, in Washington. As he enters the last two years of his second term, President Obama is still widely admired for his deft handling of the economy and his foreign policy, but he may have inadvertently created a testy relationship with a former aide.

President Barack Obama and his White House strategists are going to have to be especially careful and sensitive if they hope to avoid a series of crises in the months to come.

The first such test, if the current U.S.-Iran tensions hold, will likely come on Aug. 2, when U.S. lawmakers return to Washington from their August recess for the first time since March, when Congress passed an appropriations bill to fund the government and avert default. The Senate and House must now agree on the legislation, but the House, which is controlled by Republicans, has already indicated that it won’t pass any spending measures without the Iran amendment. Senate aides say the final bill will not include language to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, but the debate over the nuclear program will likely be one issue that will come up.

If it is not dealt with in this way, the Aug. 2 recess could become a testing ground for the president. There has been talk of extending the recess another week or two, to avoid any confusion about the vote or an overly busy Congress.

Still, it is highly unlikely that the president will allow Congress to take itself out of the Iran equation on Aug. 2. The White House has made it clear that it won’t let an appropriations issue get in the way of Iran.

The bigger question is whether Congress has, in the last six months, become too obstreperous — and whether the White House is too soft during the budget fight and is not providing enough political cover for an administration that is facing increasing opposition.

The biggest problem here is a perception that the Obama White House has been unable to stand up for Israel during the debate. After a six-month stalemate with the Israeli government over Iran’s nuclear program, it became clear that the White House had not been as consistent in its support of Israel as he had been in supporting Palestinian-driven efforts to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

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