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“Screwing Up A One-Car Funeral”: House Republicans Three-Headed Monster Of A legislative Vehicle For Its Views On Iran

One of the few things we all thought we could count on when Congress returned from its August recess was a quick vote in the House on a resolution of disapproval for the Iran Nuclear Deal. After all, (1) it’s an issue on which all congressional Republicans seem to agree, (2) there’s a mandated timetable for dealing with the resolution that everybody agreed on months ago, and (3) it’s all kinda Kabuki Theater right now because Democrats have the votes to filibuster the resolution in the Senate.

But sometimes with these birds even the simplest things come unglued. Suddenly today a “revolt of House conservatives”–by no means the first or last–occurred, and now pending a meeting of House GOPers that’s currently underway, the Party of Responsible Government looks likely to produce some sort of three-headed monster of a legislative vehicle for its views on Iran, per Politico‘s Jake Sherman:

They are moving toward voting on a measure asserting Obama did not submit all elements of the agreement with Iran, a concept first raised by Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), a former member of GOP leadership. Second, Republicans are working on a bill to try to prevent Obama from lifting sanctions against Iran. Third, the House would vote on a resolution to approve of the Iran pact. The original plan was to vote on a disapproval resolution.

This first gambit is based on the growing right-wing furor over “side agreements” between the Iranians and international nuclear monitors, plus alleged other “secret” deals, which conservatives claim cancels the procedural timetable for any votes and also makes the administration vulnerable to lawsuits. Boil it all down, and it’s an effort to add the Iran Nuclear Deal to the long list of things on which the Tyrant Obama supposedly broke the law and violated the Constitution.

In other words, House GOPers are talking to themselves, and to the almighty base.

The third gambit supposedly makes the treasonous nature of Democrats more obvious by requiring them to vote for the deal, not just against a resolution of disapproval.

Trouble with that one, and with the whole package, is that it’s not being coordinated with the Senate, where it’s totally not welcome (guess Ted Cruz is too busy in Kentucky trying to get into photos with Kim Davis to serve as the liaison between House and Senate wingnuts). So what should have been the easiest of maneuvers in a very crowded and complicated schedule has become a fiasco (Greg Sargent calls it “snatching defeat from the jaws of defeat.”), and congressional GOPers have become the people who could screw up a one-car funeral. Just amazing.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 9, 2015

September 10, 2015 Posted by | House Republicans, Iran Nuclear Agreement, Senate | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Defiance Of The Right-Wing Opposition”: Iran Debate; Clinton Steps Up To Oppose The Demagogues

When Sarah Palin joins Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and a motley crew of crazies in Washington this week to rally against the Iran nuclear deal, the speeches are likely to reflect the incoherence of the opposition. None of these right-wing celebrities appears to comprehend its terms, how it was negotiated or – most important – why its failure would probably lead to yet another horrific war.

On that same day, as Cruz, Trump, and Palin blather on about their love of Israel, their hatred for Barack Obama, and their determination to “make America great again,” someone else will step up to support the agreement – someone whose diplomatic efforts laid the groundwork for successful negotiations with Tehran.

That would be Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former Secretary of State and leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Scheduling a major speech on the Iran deal for the same day as the Washington event, Clinton is plainly determined to display her mastery of its details as well as her defiance of the right-wing opposition.

But this speech — which could become one of the best moments in public life — will also prove just how far she has come since the last time she ran for president.

That’s because Iran was the subject of one of the most troubling moments in her 2008 campaign, when she promised to “totally obliterate” that country (and presumably its 70 million-plus population) if the mullahs ever attacked Israel with a nuclear weapon. Having uttered that genocidal threat in response to a provocative question, she reiterated the same bluster a few days later on ABC News’ This Week.

“I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran [if they attack Israel with nuclear weapons]. And I want them to understand that. … I think we have to be very clear about what we would do,” she told host George Stephanopoulos.

At the time, in early May 2008, it wasn’t clear why the Iranians needed to “understand” any such ultimatum, since our own intelligence showed that they neither had nuclear weapons nor were likely to possess such weapons any time soon – and that the Israeli military was (and is) fully capable of nuclear retaliation. Clinton’s harsh rhetoric seemed to be aimed more directly at Obama, her primary opponent, whose aim of negotiating with traditional enemies like Tehran she had denounced as “naïve.”

Those who expected better from her pointed to her Mideast advisors, who advocated an opening to Iran, and to her own previous remarks about the imperative of talking with “bad people” as a sign of strength, not weakness. But at that moment, she seemed to echo John McCain and the “bomb Iran” chorus among the Republicans.

Much has changed since 2008, of course – including the leadership of the Iranian government. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the aggressive Holocaust denier who held the Iranian presidency back then, gave way in 2013 to Hassan Rouhani, a reformer who wants to end his country’s international isolation. Thanks in part to Clinton’s work as Secretary of State, a powerful and unprecedented international alliance enforced real sanctions that finally pushed Iran into serious negotiations. And since those negotiations began, Rouhani’s government has heeded the required limitations on its nuclear activities.

Perhaps Clinton hasn’t changed. After all, she has always believed that diplomacy, aid, and other aspects of American power are just as fundamental to our security as military force. But she has found a balance and a voice that are more vital than ever in a contest against irresponsible politicians, whose demagogy points us again toward war.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editors Blog, Featured Post, The National Memo, September 8, 2015

September 9, 2015 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, Iran Nuclear Agreement, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The High Price Of Rejecting The Iran Deal”: Foreign Governments Will Not Continue To Make Costly Sacrifices At Our Demand

The Iran nuclear deal offers a long-term solution to one of the most urgent threats of our time. Without this deal, Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, would be less than 90 days away from having enough fissile material to make a nuclear bomb. This deal greatly reduces the threat of Iran’s nuclear program, making Iran’s breakout time four times as long, securing unprecedented access to ensure that we will know if Iran cheats and giving us the leverage to hold it to its commitments.

Those calling on Congress to scrap the deal argue that the United States could have gotten a better deal, and still could, if we unilaterally ramped up existing sanctions, enough to force Iran to dismantle its entire nuclear program or even alter the character of its regime wholesale. This assumption is a dangerous fantasy, flying in the face of economic and diplomatic reality.

To be sure, the United States does have tremendous economic influence. But it was not this influence alone that persuaded countries across Europe and Asia to join the current sanction policy, one that required them to make costly sacrifices, curtail their purchases of Iran’s oil, and put Iran’s foreign reserves in escrow. They joined us because we made the case that Iran’s nuclear program was an uncontained threat to global stability and, most important, because we offered a concrete path to address it diplomatically — which we did.

In the eyes of the world, the nuclear agreement — endorsed by the United Nations Security Council and more than 90 other countries — addresses the threat of Iran’s nuclear program by constraining it for the long term and ensuring that it will be exclusively peaceful. If Congress now rejects this deal, the elements that were fundamental in establishing that international consensus will be gone.

The simple fact is that, after two years of testing Iran in negotiations, the international community does not believe that ramping up sanctions will persuade Iran to eradicate all traces of its hard-won civil nuclear program or sever its ties to its armed proxies in the region. Foreign governments will not continue to make costly sacrifices at our demand.

Indeed, they would more likely blame us for walking away from a credible solution to one of the world’s greatest security threats, and would continue to re-engage with Iran. Instead of toughening the sanctions, a decision by Congress to unilaterally reject the deal would end a decade of isolation of Iran and put the United States at odds with the rest of the world.

Some critics nevertheless argue that we can force the hands of these countries by imposing powerful secondary sanctions against those that refuse to follow our lead.

But that would be a disaster. The countries whose cooperation we need — including those in the European Union, China, Japan, India and South Korea, as well as the companies and banks that handle their oil purchases and hold foreign reserves — are among the largest economies in the world. If we were to cut them off from the American dollar and our financial system, we would set off extensive financial hemorrhaging, not just in our partner countries but in the United States as well.

Our strong, open economic relations with these countries constitute a foundation of the global economy. Nearly 40 percent of American exports go to the European Union, China, Japan, India and Korea — trade that cannot continue without banking connections.

The major importers of Iranian oil — China, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey — together account for nearly a fifth of our goods exports and own 47 percent of foreign-held American treasuries. They will not agree to indefinite economic sacrifices in the name of an illusory better deal. We should think very seriously before threatening to cripple the largest banks and companies in these countries.

Consider the Bank of Japan, a key institutional holder of Iran’s foreign reserves. Cutting off Japan from the American banking system through sanctions would mean that we could not honor our sovereign responsibility to service and repay the more than $1 trillion in American treasuries held by Japan’s central bank. And those would be direct consequences of our sanctions, not to mention the economic aftershocks and the inevitable retaliation.

We must remember recent history. In 1996, in the absence of any other international support for imposing sanctions on Iran, Congress tried to force the hands of foreign companies, creating secondary sanctions that threatened to penalize them for investing in Iran’s energy sector. The idea was to force international oil companies to choose between doing business with Iran or the United States, with the expectation that all would choose us.

This outraged our foreign partners, particularly the European Union, which threatened retaliatory action and referral to the World Trade Organization and passed its own law prohibiting companies from complying. The largest oil companies of Europe and Asia stayed in Iran until, more than a decade later, we built a global consensus around the threat posed by Iran and put forward a realistic diplomatic means of addressing it.

The deal we reached last month is strong, unprecedented and good for America, with all the key elements the international community demanded to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Congress should approve this deal and ignore critics who offer no alternative.

 

By: Jacob J. Lew, Secretary of the Treasury, Opinion Pages; Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times, August 13, 2015

August 16, 2015 Posted by | Global Economy, Iran Nuclear Agreement, U. N. Security Council | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“This Whole Debate Is A Charade”: Let’s Stop Pretending Republicans Have A Serious Critique Of The Iran Deal

Secretary of State John Kerry went to Capitol Hill today to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee about the deal to restrain Iran’s nuclear program. As expected he absorbed a lot of insults and invective from Republicans who are critical of the deal. Along with Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew, Kerry tried to rebut the criticisms as best he could.

But you could see in Kerry’s occasionally exasperated expression something that we all ought to be willing to acknowledge: This whole debate is a charade.

There’s a reason no Republican has managed to answer President Obama’s challenge to articulate an alternative that would be preferable to what the six-party negotiations produced, and it isn’t because this deal is perfect or couldn’t have been better. It’s that from where Republicans sit, any deal negotiated with Iran is a bad one by definition.

That’s partly because it was negotiated by the Obama administration, of course, and the GOP has gotten itself to a position where opposition to pretty much anything Barack Obama does is not just reflexive but mandatory for any elected Republican who wants to keep his job. It’s also because the sustained critique of Obama’s foreign policy that Republicans have pushed for the last six and a half years is that everything Obama does is “weak.” The word comes up again and again in Republican statements about foreign policy; ask them what they’d do differently, and in every situation their answer always revolves around being stronger. The content of this strength is rarely detailed, but when it is it usually involves more aggressive use of the military.

And it assumes that when dealing with adversaries like Iran, negotiation is weak, again by definition. Negotiation means talking to those we hate, and even offering them concessions. Successful negotiation ends with an outcome that our adversaries actually praise, when what we really want is for them to fall to their knees and surrender to our might. This is what elected Republicans believe, and more importantly, it’s what they’ve been telling their constituents for years, so it’s what those constituents demand.

So there was literally no deal this administration could have negotiated with Iran that Republicans would have agreed to. None. From their perspective, the substance of the deal never mattered. No one who has been remotely attentive to our politics in recent years could honestly deny that.

And there’s something important to understand about whether Republicans have an alternative. Yes, it’s a reasonable rhetorical point to demand that they explain what other kind of deal they’d support. But right now, they are actually proposing an alternative: that the U.S. pull out of this deal. And we need to explore what that means.

You can argue that this deal should have been different, but when it comes time to vote on whether it should go forward, members of Congress will be choosing between two options, neither of them hypothetical. A yes vote means all the parties — not only Iran and the United States, but also the United Nations, China, Russia, and the European Union — implement this deal. A no vote, in contrast, doesn’t mean that some fantasy deal will fall from the sky. It means that the U.S. walks away from this deal, and it collapses.

That also could mean that the existing sanctions regime collapses. We can keep our sanctions on Iran, but the reason sanctions have been so devastating to the country’s economy is that they haven’t just come from the U.S., but also from the United Nations, the European Union, and elsewhere. If those other sanctions were to disappear, Iran would get most of what it wanted without having to fulfill any obligations at all. And if they want to pursue a nuclear weapon, they could then go right ahead.

So now that the deal is on the table and congressional votes are on their way, what Republicans really need to explain is not what sort of deal they might have preferred. We know their answer to that question — they’ll say they would have rather had a deal where Iran gives us everything we want, and we give up nothing. But that’s irrelevant at this point. What they need to explain now is why the U.S. pulling out of this deal — and what happens afterward — will be preferable to implementing it, imperfections and all. Do they think the Iranians will come crawling back and make further concessions? Do they think the rest of the world’s powers, which support the deal they helped negotiate, will just follow us and impose new sanctions in the hope that eventually that might lead to more negotiations (which, like these, would take years) and ultimately the fantasy deal where Iran capitulates? What precisely is the chain of events Republicans think will occur if we pull out?

If they’ve given that question even a moment’s consideration, you wouldn’t know it to listen to them. But it’s what they ought to be asked now.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, July 23, 2014

July 26, 2015 Posted by | Iran Nuclear Agreement, John Kerry, Republicans | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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