Despite the many requests from the Obama administration that the Congress hold off on any new legislation on Iran, yesterday, Foreignpolicy.com learned that top senate democrats (Chuck Schumer and Robert Menendez) and one republican senator (Mark Kirk) began circulating a new Iran sanctions bill. If the bill passes, it will certainly tank the delicate negotiations currently underway between Iran and the major world powers.
The historic nuclear deal between Iran and the EU, the US, Russia and China was announced last month. It freezes parts of Iran's nuclear program in exchange for providing Iran relief from sanctions and is intended to be a first step in a six-month long process ending in a more comprehensive nuclear agreement.
The deal is nearly universally-hailed as a major diplomatic achievement, with Americans approving by a 2-to-1 margin, and obviously the EU, China and Russia agreeing. Even the Gulf states climbed on board. Only Israel seemed to think it an historic mistake. Nonetheless, Congress immediately set about cluck cluck clucking about new sanctions.
While the administration was able to beat them back for about a month, yesterday, the bill began to circulate. From Foreignpolicy.com:
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 states Obama may not waive sanctions unless the United States and its allies "reached a final and verifiable agreement or arrangement with Iran that will ... dismantle Iran's illicit nuclear infrastructure, including enrichment and reprocessing capabilities and facilities." (Congress could also block Obama's waivers by passing a "joint resolution of disapproval" against a final deal.)Of course, like every other country that has signed the Nuclear Non-Profliferation Treaty, Iran currently has a right to enrich uranium for energy and medical purposes.
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.*Huh? Here, Congress is outsourcing our foreign policy to another state. Andrew Sullivan's takedown says it all:
As usual, English is the first casualty in propaganda. Any act of “self-defense” against a mere “program” is not an act of legitimate self-defense. In international law, you are allowed to defend yourself if attacked; you do not have a right to attack another country just because you don’t like one of their military programs (which the Iranian regime has, in any case, sworn it would never use). That would be a license to shred international law and any concept of just warfare. For the US Senate to proactively bless future aggressive military action by a foreign government when it is not justified by self-defense is an appalling new low in the Israeli government’s grip on the US Congress.Tell your senators "hell no!" And if they're democrats, tell them to stop sabotaging President Obama's diplomatic efforts at averting a war.
But to proactively commit the United States as well to whatever the Netanyahu government might want to do in a war of choice against Iran is more staggering. Yes, this is non-binding language. But it’s basically endorsing the principle of handing over American foreign policy on a matter as grave as war and peace to a foreign government, acting against international law, thousands of miles away. George Washington would be turning at a rather high velocity in his grave.