The Providence Journal (R.I.), Aug. 23:

President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, even in the outline initially revealed to the American people, seemed to substitute appeasement for firmness against an enemy that supports terrorism while vowing to annihilate Israel and attack the United States. It is not surprising that polls show a majority of Americans oppose the deal. But a frightening report by the Associated Press last week cannot help but further erode the public’s trust in the president’s position.

The AP discovered a secret side deal with a U.N. agency that will permit Iran, rather than the watchdog agency, to conduct inspections of a site where it was said to be developing nuclear weapons. In essence, the side deal may permit the fox to guard the hen house at one site.

The president has insisted that the agreement with Iran reached by the United States and five other world powers is built on inspections – albeit delayed ones. But no one has revealed until now a separate bilateral agreement between Iran and the Viennabased International Atomic Energy Agency that cedes to Iran inspections of that country’s own Parchin site .

As we have noted, the overarching deal that President Obama made public represented a stark departure from his 2012 insistence that Iran abandon its nuclear program.

At best, the deal would seem to only temporarily postpone Iran’s development of nuclear weapons, letting that country conduct research on advanced centrifuges after eight years. After 15 years, Iran would be permitted to produce unlimited nuclear fuel. Perhaps most ominously, it would lift, after eight years, an embargo on Iran’s purchase of ballistic missiles, despite warnings from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and President Obama’s own defense secretary that Iran should not be allowed to buy, share or obtain intercontinental ballistic missiles – which would not be needed to obliterate Israel, but could be aimed at the United States.

Given the stakes and the nature of the agreement, a number of prominent Democrats have broken ranks with the president, including Robert Menendez, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who spoke out last week. “This is one of the most serious national security, nuclear nonproliferation, arms control issues of our time. It is not an issue of supporting or opposing the president. This issue is much greater and graver than that,” Senator Menendez said.

Rhode Island’s two Democratic senators, meanwhile, endorsed the deal last week. In a statement, they said they decided to embrace it after “numerous public hearings, classified briefings, consultation with nuclear experts and discussions with Rhode Islanders.” Reed argued that the deal will give international inspectors “unprecedented access” to Iran to make sure it is complying. (Unfortunately, the AP’s revelation of the secret side deal suggests the inspections may not be as rigorous as one would hope.)

As of now, it appears that Congress lacks the two-thirds majority required to turn back the deal. In that case, we must hope and pray that its advocates are correct – that the relinquishment of economic sanctions and the permission of full-throttled development of nuclear weapons after a waiting period are, as Senator Reed put it, “the most effective means available to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”