Obama, this past Sunday....
“Unprecedented sanctions and tough diplomacy helped to bring Iran to the negotiating table,” Obama said in a statement. “Imposing additional sanctions now will only risk derailing our efforts.”
The president stressed that he would veto any legislation enacting new sanctions.
UN Security Council member nations, plus Germany, have successfully negotiated a six month deal with the Iranians. In the deal, Iran will stop enriching uranium and plutonium to 20% enrichment levels, do away with all radioactive materials previously enriched to those levels and provide transparency. In return, starting on January 20 when the agreement goes into effect, $4.2 billion in now-frozen Iranian oil revenues will be parceled out in installments to Iran.
It is only the first step in what will undoubtedly be a long process....but this would seem to be encouraging and welcome news. But, apparently, not to many U.S. congressional members.
On December 16, Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced a new Iranian sanctions bill that, if passed and implemented, would, ostensibly, reduce Iranian oil exports to zero. As of today, 59 senators are prepared to vote in favor of harsher Iranian sanctions....including 16 Democratic senators.
Obama's White House has warned Congress about imposing new sanctions at the very time that a tentative deal has been reached with Iran.....suggesting that if Congress wants another war, they should just come out and say so....rather than working to derail a fragile agreement. Steve Benen puts it this way....
This is, after all, the moment U.S. officials have been hoping for. Congress passed sanctions to entice Iran to come to the table, and Iran came to the table. Pressure from sanctions was intended to encourage Iran to reach a deal, and Iran reached a deal. If Congress could resist the urge to destroy its own success – new sanctions would derail all talks, force Iran from the table, and tell the world the United States isn’t serious about peaceful solutions – real progress could move forward.
Congress doesn't have to do anything. No consent from Congress is necessary for the Iranian deal to move forward. And yet, Congress appears to be on the cusp of queering the deal. There's even a chance that Congress could override an Obama veto.
The question....is...why? Why would Congress want to derail the tentative deal reached with Iran? Yes, congressional sponsors of a new Iranian sanctions bill have explained that a new threat of even harsher sanctions would be "insurance" for the U.S. and its negotiating partners. Yet, Iranian negotiators have explained that any new sanctions at this critical juncture would derail the entire process.
So, what's Congress' game here? Good cop, bad cop?
14 Democratic senators now prepared to vote for new Iranian sanctions are up for re-election this year. Many are in more-conservative run states. These senators may be trying to appeal to more hawkish and evangelical voters in their respective states by voting to monkey wrench the deal. Hawks want war perpetually.....and evangelical voters are in favor of all things which are perceived as benefiting Israel, a country which plays a significant role in evangelical apocalyptic prophecies.
Further, east coast Democratic senators, like Menendez and Schumer, may be looking to please Jewish-American political donors by siding with Israel over their own party's president.
In my opinion, this direct congressional threat to an Iranian agreement demonstrates the worst American politics has to offer. It reminds of the lead up to the Iraq crime when nothing that was being presented by elected officials seemed to be on the level....because it wasn't.
When the alternatives seem to be....pimp for votes in the hopes of getting re-elected by, arguably, voting to deal with the Iranian problem through military avenues......OR.....stand down and stay out of it, allowing diplomatic breakthroughs to develop......one would hope the latter would be preferable.
Not sure how this will be settled. The United States has been THE predatory and warring nation of the world for a very long time.....so, perhaps it's time for yet another war of aggression and that's what the new congressional sanctions bill is really all about. After all, our latest warrior president made it clear that Iran was part of the Axis of Evil.
But if congressional members are playing a political-posturing game with one eye on this November's election.....then we have one more reason to be ashamed and repulsed by our current representative government.
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