Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Iran Deal Out of Congressional Woods for 2013

The Israel lobby's failure to move new Iran sanctions through Congress before the Christmas recess marks a major setback for opponents of the interim agreement with Iran over its nuclear enrichment program.

Print Friendly

LobeLog

In what can only be considered a pretty substantial defeat for Bibi Netanyahu, neoconservatives, and the mainstream Israel lobby in Washington, lobby-led efforts in both houses of Congress to enact some form of new sanctions legislation or resolutions designed to undermine the Geneva nuclear deal before the Christmas recess have collapsed. The Cable blog has most of the essentials, including a copy of the resolution that Majority Leader Eric Cantor was working with Steny Hoyer to co-sponsor and pass before the House adjourns Friday here.

“Mr. Hoyer believes Congress has the right to express its views on what should be included in a final agreement, but that the timing was not right to move forward this week,” Hoyer’s spokesperson, Stephanie Young, told reporters in a statement.

On the Senate side, heavy lobbying by the administration, pressure from other leading Democrats, and grassroots efforts by national peace groups apparently dissuaded Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Robert Menendez, who had appeared determined to pass new sanctions legislation before the Senate recess, from co-sponsoring a bill with Mark Kirk which, at the very least, would have imposed new sanctions after the six-month term of the Geneva accord between Iran and the P5+1 unless Obama certified that negotiators were close to final agreement.

“I know I have a been a proponent of pursuing additional sanctions prospectively and in a timeframe beyond the scope of the six-month period of negotiations,” Menendez told reporters. “But I am beginning to think, based upon all of this, maybe what the Senate needs to do is define the end game, at least what it finds as acceptable.”

AIPAC and other leading Israel lobby groups believed since the Geneva deal was sealed that several Congressional avenues were available to undermine, if not kill the deal in its crib before the Christmas break. One was quickly pushing sanctions legislation passed overwhelmingly last July by the House through the Senate Banking Committee and get it quickly to the floor. But the committee chairman, Tim Johnson, ruled out that path earlier this week when he joined other key Democrats, including Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin and Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein, in concluding that now was not the time for new sanctions of any kind. A second channel was to tack on a sanctions amendment to the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), but Levin and the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, James Inhofe, made clear already last week they determined to move it through pronto with a minimum of fuss.

A final avenue, which is theoretically still open, was for Menendez and Kirk to introduce their own stand-alone bill on the floor at some moment before the Senate adjourns next week. It appears that the lobby’s strategy was to try to get a Cantor-Hoyer resolution passed by a large margin in the House and thus put additional pressure on the Senate to at least act on a Menendez-Kirk bill, a move that would have put Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who controls the calendar, in a very serious quandary. Reid, almost invariably a reliable supporter of the Israel lobby’s positions, also believes in loyalty to a Democratic president and party discipline. Reid could well have indicated his support for Obama, thus signaling to Menendez that forcing the issue could prove very destructive to Democratic unity. But Hoyer’s decision to desert Cantor — apparently communicated to the Majority Leader Thursday morning — clearly foiled the lobby’s strategy of using the House and its Republican majority as a lever to move  Reid and the Senate.

In any event, the lobby’s failure to get any sanctions legislation through before the end of the year marks a significant setback for it, the neoconservatives, and Netanyahu who, in clear defiance of repeated appeals by the administration, never backed off his public calls for more sanctions.  In some respects, this marks the third defeat in a row for the neocons and the more right-wing leadership of the lobby. They opposed Hagel’s nomination and lost; they supported Obama’s efforts to line up Congressional support for attacking Syria and lost. And they tried hard — much harder than in the Syria case — to get new sanctions legislation before the Geneva deal gathers serious momentum (as it may very likely do by the time Congress reconvenes, primarily through unilateral actions by Iran) and lost.

Moreover, they lost even when they backed off their maximum positions. At the outset, they were pushing for the Senate to pass the House sanctions bill, which was approved by a 400-20 margin. When they realized that was a non-starter, they began pushing for prospective sanctions; that is, those that would automatically take effect if Iran failed to comply with the deal or when the six-month term of the deal ended without a final agreement. Then they fell back to prospective sanctions after six months that would take effect only if Obama acquiesced. But even that couldn’t get sufficient Democratic traction. Their failure demonstrates once again that if a president is determined to win against the lobby — and Obama’s remarks at the Saban Center’s conference last weekend made clear that he was both determined and actually knowledgeable about the subject — he can win.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the battle is over. Far from it. Beginning next month and for at least the following five, neoconservatives and AIPAC — and their supporters in Congress — will do everything they can to get new sanctions and/or other legislation designed to sabotage the current deal or a final agreement that falls short of Netanyahu’s demands. You can be sure, for example, that January will see the introduction of legislation (see Menendez’s statement above) that will lay out the conditions of an “acceptable” final accord that are guaranteed to be unacceptable to Iran (such as insisting on an end to all uranium enrichment as a condition to lifting major financial or oil sanctions). The administration will find itself in a constant battle to fend off these initiatives and must be prepared to fight as hard as it has in the last three weeks — and it has fought very hard indeed — to prevent Congress from killing prospects for ending 35 years of hostility between Washington and Tehran. It won’t be easy.

Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that the latest Congressional budget deal provides three times the amount of money — $284 million — that the administration had requested for funding joint U.S.-Israel defense cooperation in 2014. That’s in addition to the $3.1 billion a year that Israel receives in U.S. military assistance.

Jim Lobe is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy, particularly the neoconservative influence in the Bush administration. The Washington Bureau Chief of the international news agency Inter Press Service (IPS), Lobe has written for various outlets and was featured in BBC and ABC television documentaries about motivations for the US invasion of Iraq. 

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Although sometimes characterized as a Republican “maverick” for his bipartisan forays into domestic policy, Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is one of the Senate’s more vocal hawks.


Former CIA director Michael Hayden, a stalwart advocate of the Bush-era policies on torture and warrantless wiretapping, has been a vocal critic of Donald Trump


The former GOP presidential candidate and Speaker of the House has been a vociferous proponent of the idea that the America faces an existential threat from “Islamofascists.”


David Albright is the founder of the Institute for Science and International Security, a non-proliferation think tank whose influential analyses of nuclear proliferation issues in the Middle East have been the source of intense disagreement and debate.


A right-wing Christian and governor of Kansas, Brownback previously served in the U.S. Senate, where he gained a reputation as a leading social conservative as well as an outspoken “pro-Israel” hawk on U.S. Middle East policy.


Steve Forbes, head of the Forbes magazine empire, is an active supporter of a number of militarist policy organizations that have pushed for aggressive U.S. foreign policies.


Stephen Hadley, an Iraq War hawk and former national security adviser to President George W. Bush, now chairs the U.S. Institute for Peace.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly

The Trump administration appears to have been surprised by this breach among its friends in the critical Gulf strategic area. But it is difficult to envision an effective U.S. role in rebuilding this Humpty-Dumpty.


Print Friendly

A recent vote in the European Parliament shows how President Trump’s relentless hostility to Iran is likely to isolate Washington more than Tehran.


Print Friendly

The head of the Institute for Science and International Security—aka “the Good ISIS”—recently demonstrated again his penchant for using sloppy analysis as a basis for politically explosive charges about Iran, in this case using a faulty translation from Persian to misleadingly question whether Tehran is “mass producing advanced gas centrifuges.”


Print Friendly

Trump has exhibited a general preference for authoritarians over democrats, and that preference already has had impact on his foreign policy. Such an inclination has no more to do with realism than does a general preference for democrats over authoritarians.


Print Friendly

The President went to the region as a deal maker and a salesman for American weapon manufacturing. He talked about Islam, terrorism, Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without the benefit of expert advice in any of these areas. After great showmanship in Riyadh, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem, he and his family left the region without much to show for or to benefit the people of that war-torn region.


Print Friendly

Although the Comey memo scandal may well turn out to be what brings Trump down, this breach of trust may have had more lasting effect than any of Trump’s other numerous misadventures. It was an unprecedented betrayal of Israel’s confidence. Ironically, Trump has now done what even Barack Obama’s biggest detractors never accused him of: seriously compromised Israel’s security relationship with the United States.


Print Friendly

Congress and the public acquiesce in another military intervention or a sharp escalation of one of the U.S. wars already under way, perhaps it’s time to finally consider the true costs of war, American-style — in lives lost, dollars spent, and opportunities squandered. It’s a reasonable bet that never in history has a society spent more on war and gotten less bang for its copious bucks.


RightWeb
share