After being briefly out of the spotlight, the nuclear deal the U.S. signed with Iran is once again in the election-year glare. A new rift between the White House and Israel has been ignited, and Tehran hanged a nuclear scientist and alleged spy once, which once again brings scrutiny to Hillary Clinton’s use of email when she was Secretary of State.
In the space of about a week, an Israeli Cabinet member has likened President Obama to an appeaser of Hitler, the administration has been awkwardly trying to explain the secret delivery of $400 million to Tehran just before it released four Americans from captivity, Donald Trump has had to walk back claims that he saw video of the plane delivering the controversial cash, and Senator Tom Cotton is blaming Hillary Clinton and her cavalier use of email for the execution of an Iranian nuclear scientist who may have worked for the CIA.
On Aug. 3, The Wall Street Journal broke the story of the U.S. shipping pallets of euros, Swiss francs and other currencies to Iran on the same day in January when the Americans were freed.
The right is calling it a ransom. The White House says the money represents the resolution of a financial dispute between the two countries that has festered since the Iranian hostage crisis.
Related: Kerry Just Confirmed the GOP's Worst Fears About the Iran Deal
The legal wrangle was before an international tribunal, and the U.S. maintains that if it hadn’t cut a deal to deliver this first tranche of a $1.7 billion settlement stemming from an arms sale that was suspended after Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979, Uncle Sam might have wound up shelling out billions more.
But the secrecy surrounding delivery of the money and the so-called coincidence of it being delivered on the same day the Americans were set free have made for some dubious optics.
Still, that didn’t stop Obama from taking an ill-timed victory lap. At a press conference last Thursday, the president said, “The country that was most opposed to the deal acknowledges this has been a game-changer.”
The reaction from Israel was beyond harsh. In a diplomatic bombshell, its Defense Ministry issued a statement likening the deal with Iran to the 1938 Munich Pact with the Nazis that Britain’s prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, signed.
“The Munich agreement did not prevent the Second World War and the Holocaust, precisely because their basic assumption, that Nazi Germany could be a partner to any kind of agreement, was wrong,” the statement said in part.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to smooth waters, but the fury of the White House led outspoken Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman to retract his statement and apologize.
Then on Sunday, Iran announced that it had executed nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri for spying for “our number one enemy the Great Satan,” i.e. America.
Amiri was mentioned in the batch of Clinton emails the State Department released last year after a Freedom of Information request.
Yesterday, Trump tweeted, “Many people are saying that the Iranians killed the scientist who helped the U.S. because of Hillary Clinton's hacked emails."
As the Clinton campaign tries to appear responsible and presidential, the last thing it needs is new controversies about Iran.