Obama administration is likely to fold on AIPAC-backed legislation it opposed targeting Iran

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 24 Comments

The Senate just passed the Defense Authorization Act, which in addition to allowing indefinite detention of alleged terrorists, contains an Iran sanctions measure that I wrote about last week.

That amendment passed the Senate 100-0, even though the White House vigorously opposed it, saying it would hike oil prices. But the Israel lobby organization AIPAC pushed it; and Timothy Geithner’s opposition, and that of other high Obama aides, meant nothing in the end.

Obama is now expected to sign the law; and so it appears that the administration has folded on these sanctions– which target the Central Bank of Iran– rather than get into a public battle that it will lose, with political consequences.

Pressed by Matt Lee of the Associated Press to offer an opinion of the legislation, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland declined to do so yesterday. “We’ve been working with the Congress on it. I’m not going to comment on our view of the final bill until it becomes law.”

Lee said the administration was being “irresponsible.”

“In essence, Lee was pressing Nuland to admit that the administration is being bullied into accepting Iran sanctions law it doesn’t want. Nuland was not about to admit that,” summarized Josh Rogin at the Cable.

Here is the testy dialogue between Nuland and Lee at the State Department briefing yesterday. I’ve included the back-and-forth over settler pricetag attacks on Palestinians. Again, the State Department has nothing specific to say about them either– regarding them as an “internal Israel issue.” Yes, in occupied territory. 

MS. NULAND: Well, again, the bill is not law yet, so if and when it does become law, then we’re going to have to look very carefully. And I can’t, frankly, at this point, speculate on what kinds of procedures and applications might be called for in this case. So frankly, I’m going to disappoint you; I don’t have much more than we had yesterday on this, Matt.

QUESTION: Well, does the Administration support it or are you still – do you still think it’s flawed and it restricts your ability – your flexibility?

MS. NULAND: Again, I think we’re not going to comment any further than the comments we made at the front end of this process until we see the law that emerges and we think about implementation. So I’m sorry to –

QUESTION: So you’re not going to say anything about it until after it’s too late?

MS. NULAND: Again, I think we’ve been clear about this. We’ve been working with the Congress on it, but I’m not going to –

QUESTION: No, in fact, you haven’t been clear about it, and I think that the other one-third of the government, which is the Congress, would like – as well as the rest of us – would like to know what the Administration thinks about it, especially given the fact that this President came in promising unprecedented transparency.

MS. NULAND: Well, again, we made clear our concerns early on. We’ve been working with –

QUESTION: Yes, but have those concerns been addressed?

MS. NULAND: We’ve been working with the Congress on it. I’m not going to comment on our view of the final bill until it becomes law.

QUESTION: But that – by then, it’s too late. So have your concerns been addressed by the changes that were made by the – in the conference committee?

MS. NULAND: As I’ve said, I’m not going to have any further comment on this at this stage.

Please.

QUESTION: So you’re not – so you’re going to wait until after it becomes law to say that you don’t or you do agree with it? Are you worried that you’re somehow – you’re worried that this is going to signal somehow whether the President vetoes it?

MS. NULAND: Again, we’ve had plenty of conversation –

QUESTION: Well, I don’t understand. The Administration –

MS. NULAND: I understand that you don’t understand.

QUESTION: — puts out all the time statements of Administration policy on legislation that’s before the Hill. You made your concerns about the initial legislation known to the Hill. That was not a secret. And I want to know whether those concerns have been met. It’s a simple, very simple, yes-or-no question, and I think it’s an obligation of the executive to make public what it thinks about whether a law is appropriate or whether it is inappropriate.

MS. NULAND: And again, this is in bill form now. It is not yet a law. We will make our views known after it’s the law and after we’ve had a chance to work through it. And we’re not at that stage yet, Matt. I’m sorry that’s disappointing today.

QUESTION: There’s a vote today.

MS. NULAND: I understand that.

QUESTION: No, it’s not disappointing. I think it’s irresponsible.

MS. NULAND: Well, that is – you are welcome to that opinion.

Said.

QUESTION: Yes, ma’am. Do you have any comment on the burning of Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem today by settlers, a very well-known settler? It was, matter of fact, Baruch Marzel.

MS. NULAND: We do, in fact. We condemn in strongest possible terms today’s burning and vandalizing of the mosque in Jerusalem. There is never any justification for an attack on a place of worship. We have called for calm on the part of all parties. We would also note that the Israeli Government has pledged to investigate these attacks and to bring the perpetrators to justice. We also encourage local authorities to work together with the communities to reduce tension and to defend religious freedom.

QUESTION: Okay. Now, the Israelis have disallowed worshipers from attending to a number of mosques in Jerusalem under the pretext that they are Islamic endowment and some sort of convoluted law that goes back into Jordan, let’s say, and whatever trusteeship over the holy places and all that stuff. Would you call on Israel to allow people to sort of repair and to do some refurbishing of these mosques that are basically falling apart?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, I can’t speak to these specific mosques that you’re referring to, Said. I don’t have information about this law that you’re talking about. But in general, you know that we support the freedom of religion. We support access to places of worship, et cetera, so –

QUESTION: Okay. Now, to follow up just on recent sister activities, there’s a great deal of activity under the name of “price tag” that the settlers are doing, and they are trying to make a point to the Israeli Government that if you withdraw from the settlement, this is what we are going to do. As we have seen last week, they have actually crossed into Jordanian territory and so on. So do you think – do you believe that perhaps these – the settler activity is a result of not taking any kind of strong action against settlements?

MS. NULAND: A result of Israeli Government policy?

QUESTION: A result of, let’s say, even the United States Government not taking a very strong position on settlement activities?

MS. NULAND: A result of United States policy?

QUESTION: Well, it’s Israel and –

MS. NULAND: It sounds like an internal Israeli issue to me.

QUESTION: I mean, this is a – the settlements – you issue statements about the – how it is not helpful in the peace process, but in fact, they are illegal, and perhaps if the United States Government and other European governments and so on take a position that they remain illegal, perhaps they can stem that kind of emboldened settlement activities.

MS. NULAND: We have made absolutely clear where we are on settlements. We’ve also made clear that we don’t support violence or desecration of any kind, so – but I certainly can’t speak to what’s motivating the settler activity. That’s a question for them.

QUESTION: And last week, the Israeli army fired a tear gas at a peaceful demonstrator. They killed him, they shut the door, and they went on with no investigation whatsoever. And today, there as a fatwa issued by four rabbis that actually called on the Israeli army to kill Palestinians that may be throwing stones. Do you have a position on that?

MS. NULAND: First of all, I’ve never heard of rabbis issuing fatwahs, but if –

QUESTION: Well, you know what I mean. I’m saying – (laughter). Fatwah is an Islamic word that’s become to mean an edict, you know.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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24 Responses

  1. radii
    December 15, 2011, 8:21 pm

    If El Foldo Obama is par-for-the-course, he’ll cave

    … he could do a pocket veto and just let it languish without his signature – but the amped-up israeli lobby is in full campaign attack-mode, so that’s not likely to happen

    • Hostage
      December 16, 2011, 1:10 am

      If El Foldo Obama is par-for-the-course, he’ll cave

      The original bill contained a provision for a Presidential waiver in the interest of national security. If the State Department signals that it will be employed to circumvent the unwanted sanctions before the bill passes, the Congress can remove the waiver option or make it more difficult to invoke.

  2. Kathleen
    December 15, 2011, 8:36 pm

    NPR did a story on this tonight
    link to npr.org
    New Iran Sanctions, And Fears They Could Backfire(18) (0)
    Reporters interview Iranian Minister of Petroleum Rostam Ghasemi before the start of the 160th meeting of the OPEC Conference in Vienna, Dec. 14. The global market for oil complicates the issue of U.S. sanctions against Iran.

    Congress has voted in favor of sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank — which is intended to make it harder for Iran to sell its oil. But the move could have the unintended result of reducing the oil supply, thus driving up the price Iran would receive for oil it does sell.

  3. Kathleen
    December 15, 2011, 8:38 pm

    Matt Lee is going where no one else I have ever heard at these press conferences go

    Helen Thomas used to touch these issues. But Matt Lee is a bulldog
    QUESTION: I mean, this is a – the settlements – you issue statements about the – how it is not helpful in the peace process, but in fact, they are illegal, and perhaps if the United States Government and other European governments and so on take a position that they remain illegal, perhaps they can stem that kind of emboldened settlement activities.

    MS. NULAND: We have made absolutely clear where we are on settlements. We’ve also made clear that we don’t support violence or desecration of any kind, so – but I certainly can’t speak to what’s motivating the settler activity. That’s a question for them.

    QUESTION: And last week, the Israeli army fired a tear gas at a peaceful demonstrator. They killed him, they shut the door, and they went on with no investigation whatsoever. And today, there as a fatwa issued by four rabbis that actually called on the Israeli army to kill Palestinians that may be throwing stones. Do you have a position on that?

    • Justice Please
      December 16, 2011, 8:23 am

      Really great guy. I hope he does not get the Thomas treatment.

      Oh, and American liberals: If your precious president Obama had one iota of conscience in him, he would fire this bitch ASAP. She’s a traitor to your national interest, and seems to be proud of it.

  4. yourstruly
    December 15, 2011, 8:59 pm

    why is the obama administration abandoning the american people?
    cowardice?
    conviction?
    whichever, does it make any difference?
    when an iran war means doomsday?
    what about my grandchildren and great-grandchildren?
    a chance for one of them to answer the call “will the last one out please turn off the lights?”
    nice going, mr. change/yes we can
    just what we elected you for

    • Kathleen
      December 15, 2011, 9:25 pm

      $ and an upcoming election

      • Citizen
        December 16, 2011, 9:49 am

        Yep, same as “The buck stops here” Truman did. After the Zionist pounded his fist on the oval office desk, Truman was so pissed he burned a giant stack of letters pumped out asking for recognition of Jewish state of Israel, and said he was locking his door and throwing away the key. But his old Jewish buddy from his hat store days made him feel guilty, and he relented and the Zionists barged back in–and he signed the recognition letter they had provided–except he crossed out the adjective “Jewish” from the new state of Israel he was unilaterally recognizing. Why? Well he thought about the USSR gaining influence in the ME by being first to recognize the new state, but it was not that, especially since his whole State Department and the US diplomatic community was dead against such a move–it was the alternative proposed by the Zionists: If you don’t do it, we will throw all are moneybags and main press influence and Jewish voter in key areas–to Dewey. Nothing’s really changed since Truman took took the Zionist cash. You can read Truman’s diary in Truman Library archives–he wrote the Jews were now exhibiting to the nines the pattern that when the underdog gets the power, he becomes the overdog. That Israel First dog has been ruling US since, especially since the days of Johnson.

  5. Kathleen
    December 15, 2011, 9:29 pm

    ot

    What you will not see on the front of the bloody NYT’s, etc
    Iraqis burn US flags to celebrate troop pullout
    link to google.com

    link to montrealgazette.com

    Al Jazeera has quite the spread on the US forces leaving Iraq
    link to aljazeera.com

  6. ToivoS
    December 15, 2011, 9:56 pm

    This legislation seems like it could be very dangerous. Sanctioning the Iran Central Bank implies that the sanctions will extend to any other bank that does business with them. China is one of Iran’s major customers for oil. Does this mean that Chinese banks will be punished for transferring funds to Iran for the oil it buys? There is no way that the US would do that. That would be the equivalent of declaring financial war on China. That could hurt China but it would hurt the US even more. What if they decided to stop buying US T bills? What if they started selling some of the 1.3 trillion dollars of T bills they now hold? This could set off a chain reaction of unimaginable consequences. It is difficult to see how Israeli agents inside the US is forcing this government into actions that threaten bankruptcy. Is anyone paying attention? A collapse of the US dollar as the reserve currency is not going to be good for Israel. Has the Masada syndrome infected AIPAC?

    • MRW
      December 16, 2011, 1:35 am

      ToivoS, if the the US collapses, Israel thinks its new BFF would be China. The parasite fish would just move to a new whale. After all, Israel has our military technology. [This is snark, but not far off the mark.]
      ===============

      In point of fact, the Chinese $1.3 trillion is sitting in China’s security (savings) account at the Fed in NYC. (Checking accounts are called reserve accounts at the Fed.)

      All US banks and foreign countries have bank accounts at the Fed, just like you and I have accounts at local banks. China purchased T Bills issued by the US Treasury (after the 1997 Asia crash) and their money is earning interest in addition (since the Fed started paying interest a few years ago) and sitting in their NY Fed security (savings) account. When China buys anything here, the amount of the purchase is debited from their Fed account and credited to the reserve account of the bank of the person owed the money. All that takes place on a balance sheet. [Similarly, all those "loans" that the Fed made to foreign banks were foreign central banks draining their security (savings) accounts at the Fed.]

      Where China wants to be careful, and why they dont want the ratio of yuan/dollar to change, which we’ve been trying to force them to do, is that the value of that yuan versus the dollar changes the value of their purchasing power–as dictated by the exchange rate on the day they made the purchases–parked at the Fed.

      In other words, if I spend three of my $knickerbocker to buy one of your T bills worth US$1, and the value of my $knickerbocker then reaches a parity with the US$1, then when I sell my T Bill, I will only get $1knickerbocker back instead of $3knickerbockers. I lose.

      Operationally, this is how it works. The US is not only the reserve currency, but we are a ‘sovereign currency’, like Canada, Britain, and Japan. [The Fed Govt is a currency issuer. The 50 states, every business, household and individual are currency users. We can't go broke, but we can get into a lot of trouble if we keep insisting that the Fed Govt has to balance its own budget. That's the problem the EU is having. Greece, Italy, Spain, Ireland, and Portugal gave up their sovereign currencies to an ECB that did not have the planning and charter that we have. Problem is that Larry Summers admitted he didn't understand how this works, and he advised Obama. Summers admitted he didn't understand reserve accounting. He's only had since 1972.]

      • Citizen
        December 16, 2011, 9:58 am

        This is so true–thanks for sharing MRW. Too bad our mass media and politicians either do not or don’t want to understand it. Ron Paul actually makes it all perfectly clear. Hence, along with his wise understanding of foreign policy and integrity and knowledge of ME history, this is why neither main party nor the MSM has much good to say about him, when they mention him at all. And it does not help him that he happens to look goofy and has silly body command, wears ill-fitting suits.

        As Cain said, we don’t need readin’, we need doin’. The American way.

      • Citizen
        December 16, 2011, 10:22 am

        Cain could have added, “We don’t need Americans to be thinking of America and all its citizens either, nor do we need to think of the rest of the World–all we need to think about is ourselves, our immediate family, and, for some warped zealots, a foreign country called Israel. ‘Equal rights under the law and equal opportunity for all’ are no longer the principles we hold dear–for us, Americans, Justice is not blind but has tunnel vision–it’s just not Palestinian tunnels we are thinking of, or the future Americans who criticize Israel.”

  7. Clif Brown
    December 15, 2011, 10:15 pm

    Hey everybody.

    I’m not sure if this means anything, but I just dug this story up from a couple of years ago…

    ” Palo Alto Artificial intelligence experts have announced the creation of a machine that, while not fully human, certainly looks the part and, it is hoped, will be able to show basic human thinking ability. One problem already encountered is unexplained repetition of phrases of speech. It will soon be tested on what may be quite challenging tests of logic, such as playing checkers and low level reasoning tasks. In an attempt to humanize their creation, the scientists have nicknamed their creation ‘Victoria’ and plan to eventually donate it for government work.”

    • RoHa
      December 15, 2011, 11:00 pm

      ” not fully human”
      “unexplained repetition of phrases of speech”
      “low level reasoning ”
      “plan to eventually donate it for government work.”

      Sounds perfect for government work.

      • Citizen
        December 16, 2011, 10:30 am

        While we are at it, apply this article on sick human relationships to 1) US-Israel enmeshment or “special relationship”; 2) US Goy relationship with US Jews; 3) American & Jewish internal conflict regarding US foreign policy–don’t know how to specifically insert dual loyalty: link to healthcentral.com

    • ToivoS
      December 15, 2011, 11:41 pm

      Clif offers: I’m not sure if this means anything, Nope do not worry, it means nothing.

  8. Annie Robbins
    December 15, 2011, 10:22 pm

    so much for the bill of rights, bye bye ms american pie

    • Citizen
      December 16, 2011, 10:33 am

      Goering at Nuremberg rendered the classic statement on how to get the sheep to follow you in any country, no matter the extent of its democracy: peddle fear. They will give up their own freedom and harm the world.

      Looks like USA is just the latest example that’s important because of its super-power status (which won’t last as we decline economically at a fast pace).

  9. Avi_G.
    December 16, 2011, 4:13 am

    The Senate just passed the Defense Authorization Act, which in addition to allowing indefinite detention of alleged terrorists [...]

    In cases when accused terrorists requested to see the evidence against them, the administration refused to grant them that request in the interest of national security.

    So if one is not allowed to have a fair and open trial, is not allowed to challenge those accusations, what’s to stop the government from arresting any American citizen and branding him a terrorist?

    Imagine if your next door neighbor didn’t like a tree you had planted in your yard, one that overhangs and creeps into his yard. What’s to stop him from calling in and claiming that he had seen suspicious Middle Eastern men coming to your house? Does that mean you could end up in a brig somewhere, locked forever behind bars?

    This is madness.

    • Citizen
      December 16, 2011, 10:49 am

      It’s exactly what it means. Your accuser is not accountable to the public, and if that accuser thinks you are in any way he or she can imagine, no matter how indirect, basically aiding or abetting anybody or group or entity or state on whatever terrorist shit list is current, which depends on changing factors, but the unchanging part is anything deemed harmful to Israel, than you can be arrested, detained forever, and without recourse to a lawyer. The bill, needing only Obama’s signature, does away with the Constitutional principle of due process because your back yard has been deemed a war zone, as if we were fighting the Civil War under Lincoln, who did away with habeas corpus itself to hold the union together–this time, the agenda is to (beyond getting AIPAC dollars) fight a bloody back alley Civil War in USA in behalf Likud Israel–but show no black and blue marks. Never in world history has such a powerful nation as the US been taken over by such a tiny country. The reason is that no group but the Israel Firsters has ever had a world-wide 5th column in every Western state.

  10. Dan Crowther
    December 16, 2011, 8:43 am

    I’ll say this: The American government should really reconsider their plans regarding the IDF – cuz those guys are a bunch of hacks, “the gang that couldnt shoot straight”
    from JuanCole the other day:
    link to juancole.com

    Yo’av Limor writes in a 400-word commentary entitled “The IDF’s Will To Win,” argues that “the words of scared soldiers who hid in their rooms at the army base out of fear of the invaders, the lack of arrests of the rioters and their departure from the base unharmed, should all raise a red flag.
    We can talk all day long about an ‘elite’ military unit having ‘operational superiority,’ but if an IDF division – which should be on constant alert for terrorist infiltration attempts, and which underwent countless training sessions in how to confront violent outbursts before the September Palestinian statehood bid at the U.N. – is caught with its pants down, there is cause f or concern. Even without falling victim to the cliche of wondering what would have happened if the invaders had been Palestinian, it is impossible to escape from the bottom line: The IDF emerged humiliated and terrified after Monday night’s attack on the Ephraim Brigade’s base.”

    These clowns can’t even secure their own installations against settler terrorists, yet they are the”fourth strongest military in the world” — haha. They are gonna get mauled in real combat. The American planners have to be on the same page as me, no way you want to have this type of ineptitude around when rounds start coming down range…….

    • Charon
      December 17, 2011, 2:26 am

      IDF’s invincibility is just an illusion. If you continue to repeat a lie, people believe it. It’s the same thing. Even Israel’s ‘enemies’ believe it and are also under the illusion they believe to have witnessed first hand. They have not. The IDF is a bunch of children with expensive and dangerous weapons that they don’t know how to use. It’s like Voldemort wielding the elder wand (yeah, I just referenced Harry Potter).

      The American government is the enemy of Americans and, for the most part, they have absolutely no clue. We are being destroyed from the inside. Admitting this will be considered terrorism in a month’s time. Keep watching Jersey Shore, America. GTL will be the death of you.

  11. pabelmont
    December 16, 2011, 1:23 pm

    “Timothy Geithner’s opposition, and that of other high Obama aides, meant nothing in the end.” Does this mean BIG-BANKs and BIG-ZION are not in lock-step? Great!

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