In the face of Iran's phony charm offensive at Geneva negotiations, the White House seems ready to crumble on sanctions
Dear Friend of FLAME:
After Iran's last president, the diplomatically belligerent Mahmoud Ahmahdinajad, the new guy, Hassan Rouhani, comes off like a charm-school graduate---all smiles and declarations of desire for peace.
Yet Rouhani's background shows him to be just as hard line on Iran's nuclear ambitions as his predecessor---only more duplicitous. In a 2004 interview, Rouhani bragged that he used nuclear negotiations to stall for time: "while we were talking with the Europeans in Teheran, we were installing equipment parts of the facility in Isfahan."
Nonetheless, absent even the tiniest change in Iran's nuclear policies or activities, President Obama's obsessive wish to avoid conflict seems to be motivating his reconsideration of the crippling sanctions that forced Iran to the negotiating table in Geneva last week.
According to the New York Times, "The Obama administration, in the wake of a promising first round of nuclear diplomacy with Iran, is weighing a proposal to ease the pain of sanctions on Teheran."
The fear in Israel---and Benjamin Netanyahu has made this clear to Mr. Obama---is that if the Obama administration waffles and loosens the economic noose on Iran, the Islamic Republic will simply continue developing its nuclear arsenal. Which increases the possible need for Israel to intervene militarily, which puts the Jewish state further at risk, both physically and diplomatically worldwide.
In short, in order to protect our own national interests, the world's interests and Israel's interests, the United States must stand firm: We must allow no easing of economic sanctions until Iran stops developing nuclear energy. Indeed, in the meantime, the U.S. should actually strengthenthese economic measures.
Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who helped design some the current U.S. sanction regime, proposes that "any financial institution proving Iran with access to, or use of, its overseas financial reserves for any purpose with the exception of permissible humanitarian trade will be cut off from the U.S. financial system."
What does this have to do with you and me? I urge you to contact your congressional representatives, as I have done, with this message: Let's not be fooled. Tougher sanctions until Iran stops all nuclear development.
This week's biting FLAME Hotline article, by Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, speaks urgently of the need for Congress to stiffen the administration's spine. It behooves us to encourage our senators and representatives to do just that---right now.
Please review this short piece and pass it along to your friends, colleagues and fellow congregants. Help us spread the word about the deadly threat Iran poses and the need for the US to insist on meaningful actions---complete cessation of nuclear activity---not sweet talk, before any relaxation of threats to Iran's economy and physical security.
Thanks for your support of FLAME and of Israel!
Iran stalls, centrifuges spin
Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post, October 16, 2013
First the Iranian foreign ministry learned how to tweet; now we are told their negotiators are using PowerPoint. Can peace in our time be far off?
That's the mindset of many eager in the media to help the administration paint a picture of progress at the nuclear arms talks just concluded in Geneva, Switzerland. In fact, in the words of an official of a pro-Israel organization, "Nothing — nothing has changed." Iran is still enriching, the centrifuges are spinning and Iran is still insisting it has a "right" to enrich and has no nuclear arms program. As the official put it, "This isn't the first time we've seen this rodeo." The regime has spent all of Obama's first term and some of George W. Bush's talking, but not deviating one iota from its nuclear weapons plans.
The mullahs have "offered" a freeze on current enrichment for a period of time and a reduction in its existing stockpile in exchange for lifting all sanctions. This is preposterous in as much as it leaves Iran with a short "breakout" capacity of a few months or less and relief from sanctions. Critics of U.S. policy were emphatic about the need for Congress to act. Cliff May of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies told me, "Congress and the administration should move ahead immediately to ratchet up the sanctions pressure. Doing so may push Iran dangerously close to the economic edge. And that, in turn, might make clear to Iran's rulers that it will require serious concessions — not smiles and empty rhetoric about 'trust-building' — to save their regime." He adds, "Failing that, only the use of military force will stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability — with all consequences that implies."
Indeed, State Department negotiator Wendy Sherman testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee recently that if the administration didn't get results, it would urge Congress to move ahead. Since there are no actions that would constitute proof of Iran's willingness to give up its stockpile and dismantle its program, shouldn't Sherman be heading for the Hill to demand lawmakers squeeze the mullahs further, blocking Iran's access to banking and to U.S. dollars? Don't hold your breath.
A former official who believes the administration's approach is misguided e-mailed me: "It would be useful if House and Senate did something to stiffen admin's spine. I am afraid [Sherman] will negotiate from the Iranian offer, and they will get far more than half a loaf. What the Iranians appear to have offered allows them to keep their whole program and all their enriched uranium."
Judging from bipartisan letters and comments before the Geneva meeting, there is a good chance Congress will act. A senior Senate aide involved in previous sanctions legislation told me, "The supreme leader saw nothing but Western weakness in Geneva, and so he's probably feeling pretty good right now about his chances of getting a nuclear weapons capability. That feeling will fade fast because the strength and will of the U.S. Senate is about to send his regime into economic ruin. Most senators are ready to take sanctions to a 10 — now."
The administration likes to use buzz words — "workmanlike," "productive," etc. — to describe these talks. But the only workmen are in the nuclear weapons facility, and the production going on is more and more enriched uranium. The former U.S. official suggests that for starters a full and total acknowledgment of Iran's previous nuclear weapons program would demonstrate some change of heart. That has yet to happen. The administration seems eager to be conned; Congress will need to be the voice of realism. Otherwise, it seems inevitable that Israel will act militarily sooner rather than later.
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