A monumental battle is shaping up in the United States Senate over the issue of new draconian sanctions against Iran.  The House of Representatives has already passed a sanctions bill that would effectively shut down all remaining Iranian oil exports.  A paralllel bill in the Senate has been so-far held back from a vote, but a bipartisan group of Senators, all under heavy AIPAC influence, are now vowing to ram through the sanctions bill regardless of the impact on the interim deal signed last month between the P5+1 and Iran.  The White House is arguing, with considerable merit, that any new sanctions–even if delayed for the six month period of the interim agreement–would be seen as an act of bad faith and would likely guarantee that no final deal between the world powers and Iran would be feasible.

The Obama Administration has launched a serious effort to make the case that the Senate should refrain from such a flagrant act of sabotage.   The National Security Council this week issued a 25-page paper to journalists showing broad bipartisan support for the deal with Iran.  Unfortunately, the document only cited 17 Members of Congress who publicly backed the Administration.  A second 19-page document was subsequently issued, showing broad international support for the negotiations with Iran.  On Dec. 5, Wendy Sherman, Assistant Secretary of State for Political Affairs gave a classified briefing to every available Member of Congress.  Secretary of State John Kerry, traveling in the Middle East to drum up support for the Iran negotiations, issued a video statement to Congress.

AIPAC has announced that passage of new Iran sanctions is their current number one legislative priority.  Recently 76 Senators wrote to President Obama demanding a tougher stance with Iran.  And a bipartisan group of senior Senators, including Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Bob Corker (R-Ten.) have vowed to push the sanctions through the Senate, either as a self-standing bill or an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Corker was just in Saudi Arabia, where he was feted by Prince Bandar bin-Sultan, the head of Saudi Intelligence and the King's National Security Council.  Bandar delayed his scheduled trip to Moscow to meet with President Putin to dedicate five hours to Corker, who also met with the Crown Prince, the Minister of Justice and the Head of the National Guard.  He will no doubt return to Washington zealous to drive through the Iran sanctions.

The case for new sanctions was undercut by the fact that the French government already stepped in to strengthen the terms of the interim agreement by insisting that all construction had to be halted at the site of the heavy water reactor at Arak.  The very same AIPAC and neo-conservative Senators and Congressmen who lauded the French (President Hollande was given a hero's welcome in Israel by Prime Minister Netanyahu after the French stalled the signing of the interim deal) for tightening the terms of the agreement are now the ones screaming the loudest that the deal–complete with the French revised language–is a sell-out to Tehran.  Logic and truthfulness were never AIPAC's strong suits.

While President Obama is crashing in the polls, largely over the problems with Obamacare, the sequestration and the high unemployment, his foreign policy team, led by Secretary Kerry–not Susan Rice–is adament that Congress must stay out of the sensitive negotiating process.  Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, has the power to block the sanctions from coming to a vote.  But Reid himself is not immune to AIPAC's powerful checkbook, if the past is any prologue.  Hardliners in Tehran would love to see the deal go down the tubes as the result of American sabotage rather than their own intransigence.

Between now and January 7, 2014, the Senate is scheduled to be in session for exactly six days.  The battle over Iran sanctions, what some astute observers have described as "AIPAC's Waterloo," may spill over into the New Year.  But sooner or later, as the final status talks progress and Iran demonstrates whether or not it will fully comply with the interim deal, the issue will come to a head.     

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  1. And this it will always be?

  2. confusedponderer says:

    I wonder who’ll be Blücher here.

  3. blowback says:

    These are unilateral sanctions – while American businesses are required to abide by them by law, businesses from other countries only have to abide by them if either they have business interests in the United States or their own national governments decide to enforce them. I would hope the governments of most other countries will tell the US Congress where they can put these sanctions and that it’s somewhere quite painful. I also hope this would be followed by the leaders of US businesses running squealing to Congress demanding that they be given a chance to get their snouts in the Iranian trough.
    I wouldn’t say this was AIPAC’s Waterloo, more its Retreat from Moscow to use a Napoleonic analogy.

  4. Matthew says:

    Obama could derail the Congress simply by informing the EU that he will respect their decision to unilaterally lift EU sanctions against Iran.

  5. oofda says:

    Or maybe Trafalgar vice Waterloo?

  6. Bill H says:

    Or by vetoing the bill.

  7. tv says:

    The dislike (hatred) of Israel is so strong that some people are applauding this “negotiation”
    \\\\ by renowned sellour artists like John Kerry and the State Dept,
    And, the icing on the cake: send a liberal ex-social worker, named Wendy, to negotiate with Iran.
    After all, the Iranians are really good people at heart.
    They just seized our embassy, killed Americans and massively supported terrorism because…they had bad childhoods, or something.
    So, let them build nuclear weapons and then the rest of the region can arm themselves accordingly..
    Now, THAT’S a policy:t
    Lots of nuclear weapons in the hands of assholes.

  8. North says:

    Too much tv, Mr tv-set. Dislike and hatred are quite different things to start with and giving “hatred” as synonym for “dislike” is too dumb as a emotional trigger.
    I hope the quality of your post is indicative for the average level of intellectual impotence of the people who’s words you are repeating here. What is to be liked in neo-Nazi, apartheid regime with few hundred nuclear warheads, behaving like barbarian?

  9. Fred says:

    Israel attacked the USS Liberty in international waters. Isreal facilitated transferring material vital to US national security to the USSR – look up Jonathan Pollard. Nuclear weapons – just how did Israel get thiers? But hey, Israel’s a great country.
    Iran seized our embassy in 1979. We fought two wars against Britain. Britain burned Washington and plenty of other towns. Are they perpetual enemies or allies? No. Neither are the Iranians.

  10. kao_hsien_chih says:

    You don’t negotiate with “good people.” We wouldn’t be negotiating with the Iranians if we thought they were “good people.”

  11. Rd. says:

    tv said…
    After all, the Iranians are really good people at heart.”
    Yes, all one needs to remember is, it was the Iranians who saved the ‘collective’ jewish people in Babylon. And as a result many of them who had the right sense remained in Iran for more than 2500 years. And today they maintain the largest community of jewish people in the MNE outside of israel.
    “Lots of nuclear weapons in the hands of assholes. “
    We know who the declared NW states are and we know israel is the ONLY nw state in the ME. Thank you for stating the obvious fact.

  12. Castellio says:

    I haven’t a clue what tv is trying to say.
    But working from his last line, I think he is suggesting that we ban all nuclear weapons in the Middle East.
    I support that.

  13. Peter Hug says:

    Setting aside completely the question of the sanctions themselves, Obama could quite legitimately veto this because it infringes on the President’s prerogative to conduct foreign policy.
    If this passes and he DOES veto it, I certainly hope that is the reason he gives.

  14. Peter Hug says:

    Wow. I guess I don’t really know where to begin. But I will try.
    (i) The considered opinion of the US Intelligence community (and the Israeli one as well) is that the Iranians do NOT currently have a nuclear weapons program.
    (ii) Parts of the rest of the region have ALREADY armed themselves accordingly: Israel (not a signatory to the NPT, although Iran is) clearly has several hundred nuclear warheads that have been weaponized and attached to ballistic missiles that at the very least can reach all of Europe; Saudi Arabia may have nuclear weapons that they bought from Pakistan.
    (iii) Iranians (even including their politicians) are very similar to people all over the world, in that they will act rationally in what they perceive to be in their self-interest. This means that they will sometimes do awful things, and sometimes act against American interests. This is also the case with every other country in the world, and is to be expected. The way to stop this is not by destroying them, it’s by finding a path that addresses both of our critical security needs. (Note that I limit this to the critical security needs of the US and Iran.)
    (iv) WTF – I have no idea what you mean by this: “And, the icing on the cake: send a liberal ex-social worker, named Wendy, to negotiate with Iran.” but who gives a flying fuck in a rolling donut what the political tendencies (and do remember that the current Administration is Democratic and elected twice), the first name, or the previous employment history are of whoever we send. Seriously, this comment really solidifies your utter cluelessness and (non)hidden agenda.
    Finally – dislike or not of Israel has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with any discussion or negotiation the United States may be having with Iran. Israel is (last I heard) a sovereign nation all by itself, with interests and policies that are determined by its citizens as expressed by duly elected Israeli governments. Sometimes those will be in alignment with those of the US, and sometimes not.
    OUR administration’s job is to represent and advance the interests of the United States and absolutely no one else. If this negotiation does that, they are completely doing their job, even if (and it won’t) this would mean the inevitable destruction of Israel. They work for the US, NOT for anyone else.

  15. Matthew says:

    Many in Congress are trying to sabotage negotiations to force Obama into war. And will then claim that only he is responsible when it turns into a disaster.

  16. CK says:

    One negotiates with people all the time, their goodness or badness is determined by how well they live up to the deal they strike with us.
    Anything else is soap opera drama.

  17. Peter Hug says:

    I think the last sentence of tv’s post may be the only factual statement it contains.
    And I would certainly support a nuclear-free ME. I expect that the Iranians would as well.

  18. Amir says:

    The Iranians are people who will be affected by sanctions but survive: “what doesn’t kill one, make one stronger”. I can only tell of personal experience of being a student at a time of Clinton sanctions: it certainly made life more difficult but helped you to focus instead of the neighboring princes. tv wake up and smell the future: The Love of your life is merely a copy of the ephemeral Soviet Union.

  19. tv says:

    ALL (and the gracious host):
    Boy, talk about kicking a yellow jacket nest….
    My intention, simple as it was, was to question the trustworthiness of ALL the parties in this negotiation.
    And yes, nuclear weapons in the middle east are a really, really bad idea.
    As for US “intelligence” not thinking that Iran is moving toward weapons: the same bunch that missed 9/11?
    Yeah, I’ve got a lot of “faith” in their track record.

  20. Andrew says:

    Paging Capt. tv Titz, your hasbara cheque has cleared! And you should be nicer when speaking of the Israelis- “Lots of nuclear weapons in the hands of assholes.” shame on you.

  21. turcopolier says:

    that’s true. they all missed it and that was shoddy work but Intelligence is far more are than science. That does not mean that better work cannot be done. pl

  22. Charles I says:

    We’ve made it to hate the sin, love the sinner, totally meaningless in international relations, unless you’re interested in that kind of thing. At least you didn’t rail against anti-semites or Persiaphiles. The hatred of Iran’s behaviour by Israel seems so great that it has regularly threatened to attack it, without ruling out the use of nuclear weapons, for many years, whatever it does. It regularly insists other countries far away join in.
    What do you propose “we” “let” “them” do? Or not do, and how so?

  23. Thomas says:

    BS, The first sentence of your post was typical of snide comments over the years to those who don’t bow to your Idol. Maybe Bibi was thinking of you in that You-tube sensation of his “America is Our bitch”.
    Iran is moving (actually achieved) towards breakout capacity though no further. Their negotiating now for their national economic interests such as stabilizing the currency and getting the South Pars project back up and running.
    For US the goal is not to get dragged into a global conflagration for a Delirious Dreamer of Domination (your BFF Bibi).
    As for the other negotiators not in Bibi’s lil black book of bought bitches, the goal is effectiveness of international institutions for political resolutions and global economic stability with the ancillary benefits for their domestic interests.
    By the way Timothy, how many of the hostages did Iran kill?

  24. turcopolier says:

    Charles I
    Soldiers who fight you in wars are not made sinners by that and so your citation in Catholic teaching is meaningless. Also, revolutionary wars are not about international relations unless someone intervenes in a civil war as we did in VN and the French did in our war against the British. Nevertheless even in such cases of intervention there are limits to just behavior even towards the enemy. What I have been talking about here are those limits. Redemption is not possible for people who willfully continue to do violent things to non-combatants. pl

  25. Alba Etie says:

    Tv ,Graywolf, and or Thomas
    If a foreign power had taken my family homestead in Central Texas by force – And that same foreign power had killed one third of my family , sent to a Gulag another third of my family , & kept me and the remaining third of my family in a refugee ghetto hell hole with no prospects for any better future somewhere in East Texas- I would most decidedly be looking for help wherever I could get it to get back my surviving family and our homestead. Moreover if there was a paramilitary of another regional power that was training me to fight the occupiers of my family homestead , plus trying to help my remaining family members to have adequate shelter, food & employment – damn skipping I would be supportive of that helpful regional power. Then if there was a SuperPower – who against all fairness , equity & even self interest supported fully & without remorse the occupier of my family homestead, the continual murdering of my remaining family etc. – there is no question that Superpower I would consider my enemy . This is just common sense Thomas … So yeah I am very glad These United States has started to push back against AIAPC and others in the American Likud .

  26. tv says:

    You’re one angry guy.
    BTW, I’m not a fan of Israel nor it’s leaders.
    I just have less use for Iran and their constant “death to America” BS.
    As far as “snide comments”, this is my good side.

  27. J says:

    What about all of Israel’s nuclear toys that neither they (Israeli Government and its wacky leadership) nor their stick figures in and out (AIPAC) of our U.S. Congress want to talk about?
    Let’s put Israel’s nuclear toys on the table, let’s get their Israeli nuclear weapons all out in the open for all the world to see and disassemble.

  28. walter says:

    TV, read history. America killed Iranians first in the CIA overthrow of democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran Mohammed Moussadec. Then, USA supported Saddam Hussein attack on Iran in 1980.
    Iran needs to defend themselves against us (US).

  29. turcopolier says:

    In fact, the USA did not support Iraq’s attack on Iran. We began to support Iraq’s operational planning when the Saudis and Kuwaitis came to believe that Iran might break through the Iraqi Army in the southern sector. pl

  30. Charles I says:

    I didn’t really intend it that way but to glibly distinguish hared of an object – Israel with “hatred” of behaviour, the latter seeming impossible to me. I acknowledge soldiers are not per force sinners, until they sin. I’m not very fit to judge sins of war, or redemption. I love you and TTG, hard men, for believing in and espousing it. Difficult as an agnostic-at-best civvy to really understand these in the context of war.
    Just to be a hair splitter, I could take from your last sentence that “willfully continue” contains the implication, or conclusion that unwillful, maybe even willful violence against non combatants can go a bit so long as it does not willfully continue, the line being a matter of Just War military necessities,practicalities and legalities, and somehow non-Redemptive status a divination of those temporal considerations. Call in the church lawyers, beyond my resolution.
    Basically ignorant on all the theology, bless you for getting a reactive bleeder like me to at least let these ideas of honor and Christianity enlarge my understanding of them and war.

  31. turcopolier says:

    Charles I
    “willfully continue” What I meant was that harm to civilians may happen while conducting legitimate military operations but when that does happen and one learns of it, one must stop. pl

  32. Thomas says:

    Only towards a frauds like you and Benjamin.
    “BTW, I’m not a fan of Israel nor it’s leaders”
    Typical Timmy, always above the fray though lashing out at all whom disagree.
    You have less use for Iran and the Marg Bar Amrikia rally cry and therefore the United States should not look after its interests? Or only if negotiated by people preapproved by you? Such as…? Barbara Ann?
    Cyber muscles don’t make the man.

  33. tv says:

    “Cyber muscles”!!!
    This is a blog thread – about a place thousands of miles away.
    You’ve got some cyber tough guy issues of your own.
    Get hosed down and have a nice life.

  34. Charles I says:

    That’s sorta the common sense temporal line I was trying to relate to my completely ignorant concepts of who is fit for Redemption when. Next cross would be what level of “legitimate” is displaced by what level of awareness.
    Surely an easier question for the honourable and Christian than for a lawyer.
    What an interesting couple of threads this and de Klerk yet lives have generated

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