The Obama administration is working hard to head off a wrecking ball from Congress and the Israel lobby aimed at sabotaging negotiations between Iran and the P5+1. The talks, which resume in November, also include direct talks between the United States and Iran. The key issue: members of the House and Senate are trying to force-feed the administration yet another round of anti-Iran sanctions, at the very worst possible moment.
On Tuesday, the White House organized a meeting with representatives of the American Jewish community and, according to The Jerusalem Post, there were “forceful exchanges between the two sides on the merits of the sanctions package.” In the meeting were Susan Rice, the national security adviser, and her deputies, Ben Rhodes and Tony Blinken—the latter a long-time aide to Vice President Biden—along with Wendy Sherman, who’s leading the American team in the talks with Iran.
The House, which passed another package of sanctions designed to cut off all of Iran’s oil exports over the summer, is demanding that the Senate pass a similar bill, and even liberals such as Representative Henry Waxman (D.-Calif.) are pounding the table. Said Waxman:
“The Senate should act,” said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), a Jewish Democrat who’s close to leadership. “We ought to pass these increased sanctions, and make sure that the Iranians don’t think that they can charm their way out of this situation. Act now.”
The White House isn’t pleased with the new push for sanctions. According to The Wall Street Journal:
The White House is pressing Congress to hold back on new sanctions against Iran, pitting the administration’s hopes for a re-energized diplomatic engagement against the growing concern of some lawmakers and foreign allies.
The Obama administration is arguing that diplomatic efforts need more time to contain Tehran’s nuclear program. But a number of Republican and Democratic lawmakers want to bring a new sanctions bill targeting Iran’s oil exports and finances to a Senate vote by the end of next week. A similar bill cleared the House of Representatives in July and is waiting to be reconciled with the Senate’s.
The pressure for new sanctions is coming from both Republicans and Democrats in both houses of Congress, often in near-hysterical and near-apocalyptic terms, as if Iran was about to explode a bomb or send a missile hurtling across the northern hemisphere, even though Iran has no uranium enriched to weapons-grade, is closely monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency, does not yet have the capability of manufacturing a bomb even if it had the proper explosive material and has not developed the means to deliver a weapon even if it had all that. Which it doesn’t.