Obama, Congress Locked in Iran Sanctions Dispute

If Freeallthree.com had its way, there  are two articles that should be ‘must read’ material for Senators before they cast a vote on new Iran sanctions – up or down. they often leave the reading of tedious legislation to their aides, but they should carefully calculate the impact of this particular vote, if there is one.

Capitol-Senate end-wikiThere may not be a sanctions vote anytime soon if President Obama has his way.  A private meeting for Senate Dems only has been scheduled for this Wednesday evening at the White House. Undoubtedly there will be arm twisting for Democrats that still oppose the President on this issue. There are reports that some early defectors have returned to the fold already.

Freeallthree.com is already on record as opposing new sanctions at this time.  However, this is out of concern for the three American hostages should the talks break down altogether. Both the WH and Iran insist that negotiations will be dead-in-the-water if the U.S. imposes any new sanctions while they are negotiating on the old.

I usually don’t believe the verity of Iranian statements, and increasingly the WH’s, but in this instance I do. I fear that if negotiations fail, for whatever reason, and Iran is allowed to continue as is, two things:

1)      The Mideast and the rest of the world become exponentially more dangerous overnight, and

2)      The plight of the 3 U.S. citizens held hostage in Iran today will not be status quo.  It will be worse.  The very mechanism of having face-to-face dialogue with Iran, which has not happened in 34 years, should be viewed as a positive. It breathes life into the possibility that the hostages will be released as part of the negotiation process – or certainly before any follow-up agreements are inked. I believe that despite Kerry and Obama’s public statements to the contrary, that ‘talks are ONLY for nuclear issues,’ making this a side issue between Iran and U.S. is doable.  If one considers the goodies that Iran received from Phase 1, one can see it is much more than ‘nuclear only’ already!

(We digress … talks during the next 6-months are the best hope the 3 men have – short of the Ayatollah himself having a true conversion. Do you know or recall that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Joseph on more than one occasion spoke directly to the hearts of Babylonian and Persian rulers through dreams – and it was not pleasant for them when they disobeyed? Look up MENE, MENE, TEKEL!)

Therefore, at Freeallthree.com, our position remains to hold off on any new sanctions until the six-months are up, plus any reasonable mutually agreed upon extensions.  BUT if Iran cheats, spins, misinforms, hoodwinks or flat-out says, “Time is up men; now get out of our country so we can build a bomb,” then obviously it is a new day.

The President says he can reverse the already eased sanctions at will. And we would see both Houses of Congress operate at its most bi-partisan level yet in more than a decade to pass tough new sanctions within days.

The U.S., because of the Phase 1 deal, has international partners to satisfy also: the EU, China, Russia, Germany, France, UK and others who are chomping at the bits to do more trade deals with Iran! And you can put U.S. ‘big business’ and the Chamber of Commerce in that category as well.

So since the President and John Kerry have already started down this path, for the next six months I am willing to give them the leeway to deploy their best efforts and hope that true détente might follow. But we are not past “trust but verify” yet.

Cruz-Inhofe-620x350We also condition this support for the nuclear talks on the INCLUSION of specific, rigid and continual negotiations for the immediate release, by name, of Pastor Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati and Robert Levinson.

And should the Senate vote to pass a new sanctions bill, we strongly support the Resolution initiated by Senators James Infofe and Ted Cruz last week for the inclusion of the release of all three hostages as part of any direct bi-lateral talks. And I would add the same in multi-lateral negotiations before any Final Agreement (aka the Permanent Agreement, or Phase 2) is signed by the United States.

The ‘Pros and Cons Article’ from AP appears first, followed by Jim Lobe’s more recent article.  The latter clearly details how Senate Dems and GOP desire for new sanctions are for very different reasons. Dems justify more sanctions as “an insurance policy” to hold something over Iran’s heads should they fail to negotiate in good faith. The GOP desires more sanctions because they believe it is the best way to kill the existing Phase 1 [and consequently Phase 2] agreements that have already eased sanctions.

Geneva talks nov 22 13 us state photoBy BRADLEY KLAPPER Associated Press

WASHINGTON January 9, 2014 (AP)

“The Obama administration enters the year locked in a battle with Congress over whether to plow ahead with new economic sanctions against Iran or cautiously wait to see if last year’s breakthrough nuclear agreement holds.

The new sanctions, widely endorsed by both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, would blacklist several Iranian industrial sectors and threaten banks and companies around the world with being banned from the U.S. market if they help Iran export any more oil. The provisions would only take effect if Tehran violates the interim nuclear deal or lets it expire without a follow-up accord.

The House already approved similar legislation last July by a 400-20 vote and would likely pass the new sanctions by an overwhelming margin. But the Obama administration, fearful of squandering a historic diplomatic opportunity to end the nuclear crisis, has succeeded so far in holding off a Senate vote. The standoff has prompted sharp barbs from both sides.

The Nov. 24 agreement “makes a nuclear Iran more likely,” argued Sen. Marco Rubio. Fellow Republican Sen. John Cornyn called it an attempt to distract attention from President Barack Obama’s health care rollout. “We really haven’t gained anything,” Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said. The deal “falls short of what is necessary for security and stability in the region,” added Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu.

White House press secretary Jay Carney has accused lawmakers of trying to spoil negotiations in Geneva as part of a “march to war.” Before breaking for winter vacation, Obama suggested the sanctions push from members of Congress reflected the “politics of trying to look tough on Iran.”

The rhetoric has exacerbated what is essentially a debate over tactics, not substance. All want to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

But the prevention strategies differ strikingly over the role additional sanctions might play as negotiators try to end the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.

A summary of arguments for or against new sanctions [bullet points]:





Read more:  http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/obama-congress-locked-iran-sanctions-dispute-21471744


Flaws in the Kirk-Menendez Iran Sanctions Bill

By Jim Lobe Lobelog.com 1/14/14

Ed Levine, an arms control specialist who worked for both Republican and Democratic senators for 20 years on the Intelligence Committee and another ten on the Foreign Relations Committee, has written a detailed and devastating analysis of S. 1881, the Kirk-Menendez bill, for the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation on whose advisory board he currently serves. We have reproduced it below, but it makes clear that, contrary to claims by the bill’s Democratic co-sponsors, the Iran Nuclear Weapon Free Act of 2013 is designed to torpedo the Nov. 24 “first step” nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1. Passage of the bill, Levine concludes, would “leave the United States closer to a Hobson’s choice between going to war with Iran and accepting Iran as an eventual nuclear weapons state.”  [Emphases added]

Indeed, it’s quite clear from Sen. Mark Kirk’s reaction (as well as those of other Republicans, including that of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor) to the implementation accord between the P5+1 that the entire purpose of the bill is to derail the Nov. 24 agreement, as opposed to acting as a “diplomatic insurance policy” to ensure that its terms are fulfilled, as Sen. Menendez argued last week in the Washington Post. Indeed, Senate Republicans, all but two of whom have co-sponsored the bill, are clearly doing the bidding of AIPAC and Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu in trying to subvert the Nov. 24 agreement, while the 16 Democratic senators who have signed as co-sponsors have insisted that the bill is intended to support that accord. One would think the very partisan difference in the understanding of the intent of the bill would lead some of these 16 Democrats to reconsider their support. That may well be beginning to happen anyway as a result of Sunday’s successful conclusion of the implementation accord, as pointed out in this report by Reuters. But the difference in intent will probably make it easier for the White House to keep the majority of Democrats from breaking ranks.

As of now, the bill has 59 co-sponsors, but the magic number is 67 — a veto-proof majority. While Senate staffers close to AIPAC claimed anonymously last week that they had that many, and at least ten more, committed “yes” votes if the bill came to the floor, the combination of Sunday’s implementation agreement and the clarity of purpose shown by Kirk and Cantor in their reactions to the accord probably diminishes the chances of their reaching that goal. Moreover, unless they get at least half a dozen more Democrats to co-sponsor, Majority Leader Harry Reid is considered unlikely to schedule a vote and almost certainly not before the Presidents’ Day recess in mid-February in any case. And if even a few current Democratic co-sponsors decide to drop their support, the bill may never see the light of day. (AIPAC’s annual Policy Conference here in Washington is March 2-4.)

This is Levine’s analysis:

S.1881, the “Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013,” will undercut President Obama’s efforts to obtain a comprehensive solution to Iran’s nuclear activities. To the extent that it removes the diplomatic option, moreover, it will leave the United States closer to a Hobson’s choice between going to war with Iran and accepting Iran as an eventual nuclear weapons state.

Supporters of the bill, which was introduced on December 19 by Senators Menendez (D-NJ) and Kirk (R-IL), claim that enactment of it would not impede the E3+3 (AKA the P5+1) negotiations with Iran, but the text of Title III of the bill manifestly contradicts such claims. Specifically,” 

Read more: http://www.lobelog.com/flaws-in-the-kirk-menendez-iran-sanctions-wag-the-dog-bill