As the nuclear negotiations with Iran reach their final phase, President Obama increasingly finds himself at odds with reality. Although the United States has worked for years to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons while limiting Tehran’s attempts to be a regional hegemon, the president’s desperation to secure a deal ­- at whatever cost -­ places both of these goals at serious risk. 

President Obama’s desperation for an agreement has caused him to elevate politics over policy, legacy over leadership, and adversaries over allies.

Rather than stand firm against Iran’s regional expansionism and its constantly shifting nuclear redlines, the president has gone to great lengths to avoid alienating Tehran and repeatedly revised his own definition of success. The result is that Iranian demands and red lines are dictating the contours of the emerging deal, instead of the interests of the U.S. and our Middle East allies forging the way ahead.

President Obama’s desperation for an agreement has caused him to elevate politics over policy, legacy over leadership, and adversaries over allies.

This was seen most recently in the White House response to Iranian demands that all sanctions be lifted on day one. Even though the Obama administration has long assured deal skeptics that sanctions would be lifted only on proof of good behavior, Obama’s State Department reiterated that sanctions relief will only begin “after Iran has completed its major nuclear steps.” This position is itself a concession that could provide Iran with significant financial relief within months even before it comes completely clean about its past illicit activities.

Massive up-front relief like this would reward Tehran for its intransigence and rob it of any incentive to keep its word. It would obviate any remaining pressure to follow through on the deal’s requirements while using that cash to fuel its aggressive expansion throughout the Middle East.

For example, Yemen, which the administration has touted as a counterterrorism success story, slipped deeper into the throes of terrorism and violent upheaval. Iran has made clear that it would continue to support the Shia Houthi rebels that had ousted Yemeni President Hadi and created new openings for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to exploit. 

The president’s reluctance to antagonize Iran has been noticed by our partner Saudi Arabia, which responded to developments in Yemen by initiating airstrikes against the Houthi rebels after giving the Obama administration only an hour’s notice. The message to President Obama from our Saudi allies was clear: if you won’t advance the cause of stability and security in the region, we will.  

These events and subsequent administration efforts to downplay Iran’s role in fomenting civil war in Yemen have only strengthened the perception among valuable regional partners that President Obama is placing Iran’s wants over our mutual national security interests in the region. This is especially the case as it relates to the security of our closest ally in the region, Israel, which is the primary target of Iran’s malign intent.

Iranian leaders, including Supreme Leader Khamenei, continue to regularly threaten Israel’s very existence. Tehran puts this rhetoric into practice by financing terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas that carry out attacks and kill innocent Israelis.  As Iran continues to prop up the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, its own personnel have even exploited the chaos in Syria to threaten Israeli territory.

For the most part, the Obama administration doesn’t deny these facts about Iran’s regional expansionism.  The problem is that the president seems to think that a nuclear deal, combined with de facto U.S.-Iranian cooperation against ISIL in Iraq and Syria, will lead to some sort of rapprochement with Tehran that will eventually change Iranian behavior. Nothing else can explain the president’s mad dash toward a nuclear deal that will only extend Iran’s breakout time by a matter of months, leave Iran as a nuclear threshold state, contain loopholes that would allow Iran to cheat and develop a weapon covertly, and potentially lead to a cascade of proliferation in the most unstable region in the world.

For all these reasons, as Congress debates the appropriate review process for a nuclear deal, it’s critical that we make clear that Iran’s relationship with the United States will not change and the bulk of the U.S. sanctions regime will not be modified until Iran changes its aggressive behavior. This includes the release of all detained Americans, an end to its support for terrorism, recognition of Israel’s right to exist, a halt to its ballistic missile program, and improvement in its treatment of the Iranian people.

These are the fundamental actions that would prove to the world that Iran is no longer a threat to our allies and partners in the Middle East and ultimately, not a challenge that our children and grandchildren will need to continue to face in the decades ahead.

Instead of this more principled approach to Iran, President Obama’s desperation for an agreement has caused him to elevate politics over policy, legacy over leadership, and adversaries over allies. It is by far his most dangerous gamble with America’s security as commander-in-chief. If he were to step back and assess the disaster that these negotiations have become, President Obama would find that an emboldened Iran that remains a bad actor on the world stage has the potential not only to tarnish his legacy, but to utterly destroy it – along with any hope of stopping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Republican Marco Rubio represents Florida in the U.S. Senate. He is a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and was a candidate for the Republican nomination for president in 2016.