And you thought politics stops at the water’s edge? Two Democratic senators, Robert Menendez and Chuck Schumer (along with Republican warhorse Mark Kirk), are circulating a bill that would hamstring the Obama administration’s ability to negotiate with Iran by broadening sanctions. And the bill would compel the U.S. to stand behind Israel if it chooses to attack Iran. Shades of the follies of World War I.
Ali Gharib at Foreign Policy breaks the story and is explicit that AIPAC seems to be calling the tune. Jim Lobe calls it the “wag the dog” bill as it would compel the US to join an Israeli war. Finally, I quote Rachel Maddow on the congressional efforts to brake the Obama administration, and she won’t touch the Israel lobby issue. First Gharib:
The legislation would broaden the scope of the sanctions already imposed against Iran, expanding the restrictions on Iran’s energy sector to include all aspects of its petroleum trade and putting in place measures targeting Iran’s shipping and mining sectors. The bill allows Obama to waive the new sanctions during the current talks by certifying every 30 days that Iran is complying with the Geneva deal and negotiating in good faith on a final agreement, as well as meeting other conditions such as not sponsoring or carrying out acts of terrorism against U.S. targets.
In accordance with goals laid out frequently by hard-liners in Congress and the influential lobbying group the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the bill sets tough conditions for a final deal, should one be reached with Iranian negotiators. Among those conditions is a provision that only allows Obama to waive new sanctions, even after a final deal has been struck, if that deal bars Iran from enriching any new uranium whatsoever….
The bill includes a non-binding provision that states that if Israel takes “military action in legitimate self-defense against Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” the U.S. “should stand with Israel and provide, in accordance with the law of the United States and the constitutional responsibility of Congress to authorize the use of military force, diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people, and existence.” That language mirrors that introduced in February by another Iran hawk, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). With the support of AIPAC, the Graham resolution, a non-binding bill, was passed by the Senate in April.*…
“It would kill the talks, invalidate the interim deal to freeze Iran’s nuclear program, and pledge U.S. military and economic support for an Israel-led war on Iran,” said Jamal Abdi, the policy director for the Washington-based National Iranian American Council, a group that supports diplomatic efforts to head off the Iranian nuclear crisis. “There is no better way to cut Iranian moderates down, empower hardliners who want to kill the talks, and ensure that this standoff ends with war instead of a deal.”
Jim Lobe also has the story, and copies of the legislation. He calls it a “wag the dog” act, for its military implications.
Copies of the bill that Sens. Kirk, Menendez, and Schumer hope to introduce in the Senate this week — presumably to be pressed for passage after the Christmas/New Year recess — are circulating today around Washington, and, as predicted, it is clearly designed to sabotage last month’s first-phase deal (the Joint Plan of Action) on Tehran’s nuclear program, as well as prospects for a final agreement. The bill is called the Iran Nuclear Weapon Free Act of 2013, although I would prefer to call it the Wag the Dog Act of 2014, given the implicit discretion it gives to Bibi Netanyahu to commit the U.S. to war with Iran. Its key provisions, as described by the sponsors, are laid out at the end of this post.
On to Maddow. Last week the MSNBC host talked about Congressional efforts to undermine the deal and never mentioned AIPAC. She hosted Joe Cirincione of the Ploughshares Fund and continually described Congress as an interfering,
MADDOW: Last month, President Obama announced a historic deal with Iran….
The only problem is Congress. Lawmakers in both houses on both sides of the aisle have been saying, oh, forget this deal, we hate this deal. We want more sanctions on Iran now.
If they succeeded, if they passed new sanctions, the new agreement with Iran would be off immediately. Iran has been very clear on that. If new sanctions passed, the entire thing would be lost as soon as they passed.
Now, everybody who likes that there`s this deal with Iran, a potential diplomatic solution to this vexing problem, everybody`s been saying, hey, Congress, don`t screw this up. Secretary of State John Kerry was trying to persuade Congress, do not screw this up. Do not to scuttle the agreement by messing with and trying to pass sanctions that would absolutely kill the
My sense is that Congress really does want to pass new
sanctions on Iran, they might very well have enough support in both Houses to do it. And that if they had done it, this deal with Iran, this fragile first step deal with Iran would have been kaput immediately. Is that true?
CIRINCIONE: That is exactly right. It`s a deal explicitly rules out any new sanctions, it`s a deal negotiated between the U.N. Security Council and Germany and Iran. So it`s a seven-nation deal. It explicitly says no new sanctions are allowed. So, if the Congress passes new sanctions it would kill the deal…. if you can solve North Korea, you`re really looking at the end of proliferation, this wave that has spread over the last 68 years since Hiroshima might actually have crested and come to a full halt. That is historic.
MADDOW: Could be done with diplomacy, as long as Congress can`t get its act together to screw it up. I love that we`re dependent on that at this point. Keep tripping, keep tripping. Amazing.
Update: The Israel lobbyist Michael Steinhardt has joined the fray, publishing a full-page ad from Elie Wiesel in yesterday’s NYT and today’s Wall Street Journal. The ad says: “Iran must not be allowed to remain nuclear.” And:
The ads were paid for by Jewish philanthropist Birthright Israel co-founder Michael Steinhardt and were produced by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s This World: The Values Network…
[per Wiesel statement:] “from the time of the founding fathers America has always stood up to tyrants. Our nation is morally compromised when it contemplates allowing a country calling for the destruction of the State of Israel to remain within reach of nuclear weapons.”