Will lawmakers have the fortitude to go through with necessary sanctions?
Bipartisan legislation written by two U.S. senators— the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez and Republican Senator Mark Kirk— is asking for alternatives if the Islamist Ayatollahs in Iran do not abide by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and international community rules and standards.
Congress is preparing a piece of legislation to impose new sanctions on Iran in six months, if the provisional and interim nuclear deal on the Islamic Republic's nuclear program does not lead to a comprehensive and final accord (and if it goes nowhere like all the previous nuclear deals reached in the past decade).
The details of the legislation, crafted by Menendez and Kirk, suggest that the sanctions would target Iran's remaining oil exports, strategic industries, as well as foreign exchange reserves. A senior Republican Senate aide told Reuters, speaking on the condition of anonymity, that this bipartisan legislation is "an insurance policy to protect against Iranian deception."
On the other hand, the Obama administration is focused on fixing the domestic economy, creating jobs and addressing unemployment, and has been recently spending most of its political capital in Congress to warn the legislative body to not pressure the Islamic Republic of Iran and the ruling Ayatollah. After the Obama administration scored a victory (from their perspective) in pushing the international community to ease pressure on Iran and to reach an agreement, President Obama has shifted his current efforts toward Congress, to prevent further sanctions on the Islamist ruling leaders in Iran.
Secretary of State John Kerry is on a promotional tour in Congress, attempting to drum up support for the provisional and interim nuclear agreement that was recently reached with Iran.
Testifying before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, Kerry has spent a lot of political capital to remove fear about Iran as a threat or that Iran would become a nuclear power.
"We are asking you to give our negotiators and our experts the time and the space to do their jobs and that includes asking you while we negotiate that you hold off imposing new sanctions," Kerry said.
However, it is crucial to point out that the same reasoning and process led to North Korea becoming a nuclear-armed state. In addition, Iran has been given almost two decades of time.
Although Republicans and Democrats (on the House Foreign Affairs Committee) alike are not persuaded by the policies that the Obama administration is carrying towards the Ayatollahs— and because of the president’s secret talks with the Mullahs— the administration is pushing hard to stop any bipartisan sanction bill on Iran from passing Congress’s floor.
Republican Committee Chairman Ed Royce, had a very astute observation and informative question for Kerry: “I am hard pressed to understand why we would be letting up sanctions pressure at the very time its economy is on the ropes without getting an agreement which stops its centrifuges from spinning.”
This question is fundamental to the issue in that it is very puzzling that although the international pressures and sanctions have pushed the Mullahs to a level that they would accept any deal, the Obama administration is not asking the Iranian regime to halt its nuclear program or to even roll it back. Instead, President Obama, has issued an executive order to release billions of dollars back to the Islamist Ayatollah, based on the recent nuclear deal.
The Obama administration has been successful at pursuing the Senate Banking Committee to hold off on passing a new Iran sanctions bill. Democratic Senator Tim Johnson said in a statement on Tuesday, "The president and Secretary Kerry have made a strong case for a pause in Congressional action on new Iran sanctions, so I am inclined to support their request and hold off on committee action for now."
The first issue is that there is a distinct bipartisan agreement and suspicion on the Obama administration’s foreign policies toward the Islamists and Ayatollahs, their nuclear program, their heavy-water reactor, plutonium processing, and their nuclear sites in various underground locations in Iran. Both Democrats and Republicans are puzzled as to why the Obama administration is pushing for more leeway for the Iranian Islamist Mullahs at these critical moments, when Iran is just a short technical step away from militarizing its nuclear industry.
The second critical issue is the enigma over President Obama’s eagerness to halt any sanctions on Iran. Politically speaking, if Congress passes further sanctions, the Obama administration can use that as strong leverage against the Ayatollahs, particularly for the next round of talks and for making a permanent and final deal. But, why would President Obama not want this formidable leverage? Even Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House panel, told Kerry that he thought that the Obama administration would have more leverage if more sanctions were allowed to pass. He pointed out, "I think it could potentially strengthen your hand with a good cop, bad cop scenario."
Finally, and more fundamentally, while the unemployment rate is high and economy is not showing any signs of improvement, President Obama is spending most of his political capital in Congress fighting to avoid new sanctions on the Iran and the Ayatollhahs. The question remains whether this is, in fact, the primary concern of President Obama rather than focusing on the domestic economy, the destiny of millions of American youth and unemployment.
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