The left-liberal blogger, M.J. Rosenberg, has been raising the alarm on a measure gaining support in the Senate to pass new sanctions against Iran, despite the interim agreement freezing that country’s nuclear program, while time-limited negotiations attempt to prevent its development of nuclear weapons. Sometimes Rosenberg overreaches in his pronouncements on the “Israel Lobby,” but not on this matter.
|Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
|Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY)
The number of Senate backers of the Kirk-Menendez resolution has grown
from 26 to 59 in just a couple of weeks. Ironically, if it passes, not only would it likely torpedo a deal to safeguard Israel and the world from the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, but if the United States is thereby seen as at fault for the failure of diplomacy, it will be next to impossible to garner international support for new sanctions against Iran, let alone the worst-case scenario of military action.
We urge calls and emails to your U.S. Senators, to argue against this legislation. Since many of our readers and supporters live in the New York-New Jersey area, we especially urge you to contact Senators Charles Schumer of New York and Robert Menendez of New Jersey, key players on this momentous issue.
For additional background and arguing points, read the following from Peter Beinart’s latest piece in Haaretz and, below this, selections from an excellent speech by Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California:
. . . In unveiling the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act, New Jersey’s Robert Menendez declared that the bill would help in “achieving a meaningful diplomatic resolution.”
That’s not just wrong. It’s absurd. For starters, the interim nuclear deal agreed to by Iran and the Western powers last November states explicitly that “The U.S. Administration, acting consistent with the respective roles of the President and the Congress, will refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions.” Menendez and company say their bill doesn’t “impose” new sanctions, since those sanctions could be suspended for up to a year to allow nuclear negotiations to proceed, and yet again once a final deal is reached.
But in determining the impact of new sanctions on the chances of a nuclear deal, it’s not Menendez’s interpretation that counts. It’s Iran’s. And last December, when the journalist Robin Wright asked Iranian foreign minister Mohammed Javad Zarif how his government would respond if “Congress imposes new sanctions, even if they don’t go into effect for six months?” His reply was blunt. “The entire deal is dead.”
Beinart goes on to indicate a number of ways in which this bill would complicate negotiations by introducing a requirement that Pres. Obama certify that Iran has not conducted tests for missiles beyond 500 km in range nor been implicated in terrorist attacks (worded so as to seem to disqualify an agreement due to past actions by Iran).
Sen. Feinstein argues against Kirk-Menendez as follows:
. . . The election of Hassan Rouhani was a surprise to many long-time observers of Iran because he campaigned in support of repairing Iran’s relationship with the West.
Since his inauguration he has tried to do exactly that. . . .The interim 6-month agreement … freezes Iran’s nuclear program in place while a comprehensive agreement is negotiated in the next 6 months. This agreement caps Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium at 5 percent. It stops the production of 20 percent enriched uranium. It requires the neutralization of Iran’s stockpile of 20 percent uranium. It prevents Iran from installing additional centrifuges or operating its most advanced centrifuges. It prohibits it from stockpiling excess centrifuges. It halts all significant work at the Arak heavy water reactor and prevents Iran from constructing a plutonium reprocessing facility.
Most importantly, the interim agreement imposes the most intrusive international inspection regime ever. International inspectors will independently verify whether Iran is complying with the interim agreement. For the first time, the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors will have uninterrupted access to Iran’s enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordow, centrifuge production plants, centrifuge assembly facilities, and Iran’s uranium mines and mills. Finally, Iran is required to declare all planned new nuclear facilities.
In exchange, the P5+1 negotiators offered sanctions relief limited to $7 billion, an aspect of the interim agreement that has been criticized and I wish to talk about it for a moment.
Here are the facts on that sanctions relief which, in my view, does not materially alter the biting sanctions which have devastated Iran’s economy. The vast majority of sanctions relief comes in the form of Iranian repatriation of $4.2 billion of its own money. Iran will continue to lose $4 billion to $5 billion a month in lost oil revenue from existing sanctions. Iran will not have access to about $100 billion of its own reserves trapped by sanctions abroad.
For perspective, the total estimated sanctions relief is valued at approximately only 1 percent of the Iranian economy, hardly a significant amount. I wish to take a moment to detail what is not in the interim agreement.
First, it does not grant Iran a right to enrich. The United States does not recognize such a right for the five nonnuclear weapons states that currently have enrichment programs, and we will make no exception for Iran. But Iran does have a right to peaceful nuclear energy if it fully abides by the terms of its safeguards agreement under the NPT.
Secondly, the agreement does not in any way unravel our core oil and financial sanctions. Others have argued the suspension of any sanctions against Iran will unravel the entire sanctions regime, and that is false. The Obama administration has taken action to ensure that does not happen. . . .
Passing additional sanctions now would only play into the hands of those in Iran who are most eager to see diplomacy fail. Iranian conservatives, hardliners, will attack President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif for seeking a nuclear compromise.
They will argue that Iran exchanged a freeze of its nuclear program for additional and harsh punitive sanctions. Think about that. They will say that Iran did not achieve anything with this agreement. All we got were more sanctions.Second, if the United States cannot honor an interim agreement negotiated in Geneva by Russia, China, France, Germany, the UK and ourselves–we are not alone in this–it will never lift sanctions after a final agreement is reached.
Above all, they will argue that the United States is not interested in nuclear diplomacy–we are interested in regime change. . . .
Finally, Sen. Feinstein warns against the component of the proposed sanctions bill that pledges support to Israel, should it choose to attack Iran over this nuclear issue:
Let me acknowledge Israel’s real, well-founded concerns that a nuclear-armed Iran would threaten its very existence. I don’t disagree with that. I agree with it, but they are not there yet.
While I recognize and share Israel’s concern, we cannot let Israel determine when and where the United States goes to war. By stating that the United States should provide military support to Israel in a formal resolution should it attack Iran, I fear that is how this bill is going to be interpreted.
Let me conclude. The interim agreement with Iran is strong, it is tough, and it is realistic. It represents the first significant opportunity to change a three-decade course in Iran and an opening to improve one of our most poisonous bilateral relationships. It could open the door to a new future which not only considers Israel’s national security, but protects our own.
To preserve diplomacy, I strongly oppose the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act.