‘Very troubling’ isn’t ‘good’

Secretary of State John Kerry testifies along with Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, right, and Secretary of Treasury Jack Lew, not shown, at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Thursday, July 23, 2015, to review the Iran nuclear agreement. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Secretary of State John Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday that the nuclear accord with Iran is a “good deal” for the United States. But that positive assessment is seriously challenged by the details of that agreement — and by what the secretary himself has called the “very troubling” post-deal words of Iran’s supreme leader.

Certainly Ayatollah Ali Khamenei didn’t sound inclined to cooperate with the U.S. last week after the agreement was signed. Flatly rejecting the notion of additional negotiations on the Syrian conflict or any other topic, the ayatollah said U.S. policies are “180 degrees” opposed to Iran’s view.

Even Secretary Kerry, in an interview last Friday on Saudi television, called those remarks “very disturbing ... very troubling.” Then, though, Mr. Kerry added that “often comments are made publicly and things can evolve that are different.”

Under the Iranian constitution, however, the supreme leader is, well, the supreme leader who sets that nation’s priorities. And Ayatollah Khamenei’s words left little, if any, room for hope that Iran — long the world’s top state supporter of terrorism — is changing its menacing ways.

Saying the U.S. had demanded that Iran “surrender” its objectives in the Mideast, the ayatollah declared, “We will never stop supporting our friends in the region and the people of Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Lebanon. Even after this deal our policy towards the arrogant U.S. will not change.”

President Barack Obama said last week that an end to the Syrian civil war hinges on “buy in” from Iran. But Secretary Kerry said Thursday: “This plan was designed to address the nuclear issue, the nuclear issue alone.”

Meanwhile, by freeing up $100 billion or more in funds for Iran, the nuclear agreement will make it possible for its leaders to be even bolder in pursuing their Mideast aims.

That didn’t stop the United Nations Security Council on Monday from unanimously approving the agreement between Iran and the permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany and the European Union. The agreement is further contingent on Iran satisfying the International Atomic Energy Agency that it has answered all questions about Iran’s work on military applications of nuclear power. And it also requires the approval of the Iranian parliament.

Though the accord is not contingent on approval by the U.S. Congress, the House and Senate began their respective reviews of the agreement Monday. Congress has 60 days to decide whether to disapprove it, but that rejection can be vetoed unless supported by two-thirds of each chamber.

Moreover, congressional disapproval would only result in retaining Iran sanctions established by Congress. All other sanctions would fall away as the U.N.-approved timetable progresses.

So in effect, the president has bypassed Congress to make this agreement, skirting the constitutional requirement that major international agreements require a two-thirds vote of approval before becoming part of U.S. law.

And as the ayatollah’s remarks reveal anew, this accord seems bound to exacerbate, not solve, the basic problem of Iran’s fundamental threat to our allies in the region — including Israel, which Iranian leaders have repeatedly promised to erase from the map.

Still, Secretary Kerry told the Senate panel Thursday that “the alternative to the deal we’ve reached ... isn’t a better deal, some sort of unicorn arrangement involving Iran’s complete capitulation. That’s a fantasy, plain and simple.”

But this, unfortunately, is a reality: Due to this agreement, the long-term mission of countering Iranian domination of the Mideast has become a much tougher task.

And that is an ominous deal for not just that region but the world.