Reversing course, Dem. Senators & AIPAC say now is not the time for new Iran sanctions

ALSO: Obama just lifted sanctions on Iran’s IRIB TV1 as a ‘confidence builder.’  We ask, “What goodwill gesture will the U.S. receive in return, if any ?”


Tw re confidence noticed a scant Tweet originating from Israel that U.S. President Barack Obama unilaterally lifted sanctions on IRIB. The IRIB TV1 is state-owned by the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting. It’s the oldest Iranian TV channel, established in 1966.

President Obama, as he has stated, has the power of a pen and his telephone. This includes loosening or tightening the Iran sanctions screws.  

Our questions remains, “What will, the U.S. receive from Iran in return?” We hope it’s more than simply an encouragement to come to the negotiating table like the first step last November! The IRIB gesture is for 180 days as a ‘trial.’ They have been accused of blocking satellite signals they don’t like.  This latest gesture also gives IRIB the ability to more freely download other nations’ communications

IRIB_Logo_svgThe IRIB (official logo at right) has been under various sanctions ever since the U.S. Embassy-Tehran takeover during the Iranian Revolution of 1979. That’s when the Ayatollahs were brought back into power. More than 70 U.S. Embassy staff were involved with 52 of them held for 444 days! 

We caution that it is not wise to automatically expect that one, two or all three U.S. Citizens held in Iran today will be released as a counter-gesture.  But it could!

It comes down to what Iran values most: normalized media communications, the appearance of being a civilized, reliable world player, or obtaining the release of any number of Iranian nationals held in American prisons for an assortment of crimes, such as spying or trying to buy banned materials and equipment.

Considering Iran’s apparent low regard for human life, especially American life, we believe an asymmetrical trade will be necessary to obtain the freedom of Robert Levinson, Amir Hekmati and Saeed Abedini. They have all been detained in Iran against their wills for a period of years in very harsh, life-threatening conditions!

s n 1 iran hostages photoMr. Levinson, as of November 26, 2013, was held for a record 2,455 days – more than any U.S. hostage anywhere. On March 9, 2014 he will have been held seven full years!  It was not revealed to the public until mid-December, 2013 that he was acting as an independent investigator for himself as well as for the CIA. The U.S. government still has not publicly admitted CIA involvement and used a consistent cover story that Levinson was completely on his own investigating international smuggling rings. (You can read more about him and the other two prisoner-hostages by going to the Home page and clicking on the Tabs at the top.)

Mr. Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine, has been held approximately 2.5 years; he was born in the U.S. and was visiting his elderly grandmothers for the first time in Iran. He was snatched off the street without local family member’s knowledge on the day Ramadan ended in August, 2011.

Pastor Abedini has been held nearly 1.5 years. He was attempting to finalize the establishment of an orphanage that was already approved by Iranian authorities. Born in Iran, married to an American, he was a convert from Islam to Christianity. For a few years prior to his move to America with his bride to start a family, he admittedly was very active in the underground house church movement. However, on his previous trip he was warned to “tone it down” and focus on more secular humanitarian efforts. after the ‘first phase’ or first step of the nuclear negotiations was pronounced has spoken against ‘upsetting the apple cart’ called Iran through passage of new, tougher sanctions. Such sanctions in our view would accomplish little to nothing, and potentially could be the very issue Iran would point to should the talks fail. Don’t give them that out!

iranTalkers around the tableReasonable people can disagree and we respect the rationale of those who hold other views. This includes, at one time, 59 U.S. Senators (now about 42) and several American lobbying groups, including AIPAC and others. Many have now dropped their support in the past few days knowing that new sanctions, if needed, can be passed quickly, which Iran already knows.’s main reason for not wanting to interfere with the nuclear talks themselves, but also the current 6-month window of opportunity we have to use the talks to win release for all three American prisoner-hostages.

The Obama Administration said in January that the 59 Senators, one short of being a veto-proof majority, were “war mongerers” or those trying to scuttle the nuclear negotiations entirely. The White House lobbied hard and  yesterday the bill’s Democratic sponsor, Robert Menendez (NJ) called off his support of his own bill. A bill that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid refused to bring up for a vote, and if passed President Obama promised to veto.

Then AIPAC followed Menendez’s lead later Thursday withdrawing its support. This left 42 Republican Senators led my Mark Kirk (IL) still favoring additional sanctions.



Israel lobby maneuvers to avoid appearance of partisanship; Republicans ramp up their support for a new sanctions bill.

By JTA, Haaretz,  Feb. 7, 2014

menendez robert“Following the lead of Senator Robert Menendez, the top sponsor of new Iran sanctions, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee said Thursday it will back away from pressing for the sanctions’ passage at this time.

“We applaud Senator Menendez’s determined leadership on this issue and his authorship with Senator Mark Kirk of the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act,” said a statement Thursday from AIPAC after a Senate floor speech by Menendez, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in which he suggested that now was not the “appropriate time” for a vote on sanctions.

“We agree with the chairman that stopping the Iranian nuclear program should rest on bipartisan support and that there should not be a vote at this time on the measure,” AIPAC said in its statement. “We remain committed to working with the administration and the bipartisan leadership in Congress to ensure that the Iran nuclear program is dismantled.”

Read more:

Other related Haaretz articles: