Iran-Sanctions Bill Offers Something for Everyone

US Senator Tom Carper (L), D-DE, talks with US Senator Robert Menendez, D-NJ, before a confirmation hearing for the new Internal Revenue Service commissioner on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, December 10, 2013.   
National Journal
Stacy Kaper
Add to Briefcase
Stacy Kaper
Dec. 19, 2013, 2:52 p.m.

Ini­tial ana­lyses of an Ir­an-sanc­tions bill in­tro­duced Thursday by Sens. Robert Men­en­dez, D-N.J., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., ran the gamut from so ex­plos­ive that it threatens war with Ir­an — to so in­noc­u­ous it al­lows law­makers to achieve polit­ic­al ob­ject­ives without jeop­ard­iz­ing ne­go­ti­ations.

The bill, which would al­low the ad­min­is­tra­tion to have up to a year to ease sanc­tions while ne­go­ti­at­ing with Ir­an on a com­pre­hens­ive agree­ment to pre­vent it from achiev­ing nuc­le­ar-weapons cap­ab­il­it­ies, has an un­clear out­look in the Sen­ate.

On the pro side, Con­gress has routinely passed sanc­tions le­gis­la­tion with big bi­par­tis­an votes des­pite the ob­jec­tions of the ad­min­is­tra­tion. That’s on top of the fact that the Nuc­le­ar Weapon Free Ir­an Act was in­tro­duced with 26 spon­sors, split evenly between Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­ans, demon­strat­ing that a broad swath of the Sen­ate already backs the le­gis­la­tion.

On the flip side, the ad­min­is­tra­tion adam­antly op­poses le­gis­la­tion, which it ar­gues could des­troy dip­lo­mat­ic talks. Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id has so far shown little will­ing­ness to buck the ad­min­is­tra­tion on this pri­or­ity, and sev­er­al rel­ev­ant seni­or Demo­crats in the Sen­ate, like In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Chair­wo­man Di­anne Fein­stein, Armed Ser­vices Chair­man Carl Lev­in, and Bank­ing Chair­man Tim John­son have ar­gued that Con­gress should wait and give the ad­min­is­tra­tion room to ne­go­ti­ate.

A group of 10 Demo­crat­ic com­mit­tee chairs, in­clud­ing John­son, Fein­stein, and Lev­in, sent a let­ter to Re­id this week ar­guing that “new sanc­tions would play in­to the hands of those in Ir­an who are most eager to see ne­go­ti­ations fail” and point­ing to an in­tel­li­gence-com­munity as­sess­ment that new sanc­tions would un­der­mine pro­spects for a suc­cess­ful com­pre­hens­ive agree­ment with Ir­an.

“Sen­at­or Re­id is go­ing to do what he can to pro­tect the ad­min­is­tra­tion,” said a former seni­or Demo­crat­ic lead­er­ship aide, who said not to ex­pect the bill to ad­vance “any time soon.”

Law­makers push­ing the bill ar­gue that the num­ber of sup­port­ers is grow­ing and mo­mentum is on their side. To wit, 14 mem­bers is­sued a joint state­ment in sup­port of ad­di­tion­al sanc­tions last month.

Sen. John Mc­Cain, R-Ar­iz., said he ex­pects the num­ber of sup­port­ers to grow, build­ing pres­sure on Re­id.

“It has sig­ni­fic­ant im­pact when you see that many bi­par­tis­an sup­port­ers; there is go­ing to be enorm­ous pres­sures on Sen­at­or Re­id to sched­ule a vote, and we are go­ing to keep push­ing him,” Mc­Cain said.

The bill ap­pears in­ten­ded to add the force of law to the in­ter­im agree­ment that the ad­min­is­tra­tion reached with Ir­an and the so-called P5+1 na­tions — Rus­sia, China, the United King­dom, France, and Ger­many — last month. It gives the ad­min­is­tra­tion an ini­tial six months to ne­go­ti­ate, which can be ex­ten­ded for up to a year. The sanc­tions would kick in if Ir­an vi­ol­ated the agree­ment dur­ing that time or if a fi­nal agree­ment failed to res­ult in “the com­plete and veri­fi­able ter­min­a­tion of Ir­an’s il­li­cit nuc­le­ar weapons pro­gram.”

“Right now it’s very clear we are all in the corner of hop­ing we will get Ir­an to ne­go­ti­ate an agree­ment where they will dis­mantle their in­fra­struc­ture that al­lows a break­out for nuc­le­ar weapons. That’s our ob­ject­ive,” said Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., who is co­spon­sor­ing the bill, in an in­ter­view.

“This le­gis­la­tion makes it clear — I think it’s very sim­il­ar to what the pres­id­ent said — that if Ir­an does not com­ply with the agree­ment, that not only will the sanc­tions be re­im­posed that are be­ing eased, but they can ex­pect to be fur­ther isol­ated.”

The bill ap­pears to of­fer a broad cross-sec­tion of law­makers with ways to ad­vance dif­fer­ing polit­ic­al aims.

Mem­bers who want to stick it to the ad­min­is­tra­tion can claim they did so, while oth­ers can ar­gue they are simply lay­ing out the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s terms for an agree­ment and sup­port­ing its dip­lo­mat­ic ef­forts.

Cardin said his goal was to en­sure that the ne­go­ti­ations with Ir­an lead to dis­mant­ling its nuc­le­ar-weapons cap­ab­il­it­ies.

Sen. Bob Cork­er, R-Tenn., said the bill is im­port­ant be­cause it lays out what Con­gress wants to see in a fi­nal agree­ment with Ir­an, with one united voice.

Oth­er Re­pub­lic­ans like Kirk, Mc­Cain, and Marco Ru­bio of Flor­ida said they were fo­cused on see­ing the bill pass, with Kirk de­clar­ing it a form of “in­sur­ance policy” against Ir­an.

Even sen­at­ors sup­port­ing sanc­tions le­gis­la­tion who have not signed on as co­spon­sors said they ex­pect it to send a strong mes­sage to the Ir­a­ni­ans.

“I hope it has a huge im­pact, be­cause I hope we are able to pass it and we are able to put some sig­ni­fic­ant sanc­tions on and let the Ir­a­ni­ans know that Con­gress means busi­ness,” said Sen. Saxby Cham­b­liss, R-Ga., who is not an ori­gin­al co­spon­sor of the bill. “I think the ne­go­ti­ated agree­ment or the deal, so to speak, that the ad­min­is­tra­tion has laid out is very weak; I’m not sure that it will ever come to fruition, but I want the Ir­a­ni­ans to know that Con­gress is really ser­i­ous about this.”

Some ana­lysts said that the le­gis­la­tion was writ­ten “clev­erly” to co­di­fy the terms of the in­ter­im agree­ment the ad­min­is­tra­tion has laid out.

“It doesn’t pass any new sanc­tions un­less cer­tain con­tin­gen­cies are met,” said Mat­thew Kroenig, a seni­or fel­low with the At­lantic Coun­cil.

“I don’t think it will scuttle talks. Ir­an will scream bloody murder, I’m guess­ing. But I don’t think it’s enough to back out.”

Oth­er ana­lysts said that law­makers’ ef­forts could back­fire, end talks with Ir­an, and prove the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s worst fears true.

“A meas­ure like this is es­sen­tially throw­ing a life­line to Ir­an’s hard-liners, who have been very crit­ic­al of the deal and are look­ing for any op­por­tun­ity to scuttle it,” said Mat­thew Duss, a policy ana­lyst with the lib­er­al Cen­ter for Amer­ic­an Pro­gress.

“It ser­i­ously un­der­mines the talks.”¦ In­tro­du­cing this bill puts us on a path to one of two very neg­at­ive out­comes: war, or Ir­a­ni­an nuc­le­ar weapons.”

What We're Following See More »
BUT WHITE HOUSE MAY USE AGAINST HIM ANYWAY
Ethics Cops Clear Mueller to Work on Trump Case
15 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been cleared by U.S. Department of Justice ethics experts to oversee an investigation into possible collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and Russia." Some had speculated that the White House would use "an ethics rule limiting government attorneys from investigating people their former law firm represented" to trip up Mueller's appointment. Jared Kushner is a client of Mueller's firm, WilmerHale. "Although Mueller has now been cleared by the Justice Department, the White House may still use his former law firm's connection to Manafort and Kushner to undermine the findings of his investigation, according to two sources close to the White House."

Source:
BUSINESSES CAN’T PLEAD FIFTH
Senate Intel to Subpoena Two of Flynn’s Businesses
16 hours ago
THE LATEST

Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and ranking member Mark Warner (D-VA) will subpoena two businesses owned by former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Burr said, "We would like to hear from General Flynn. We'd like to see his documents. We'd like him to tell his story because he publicly said he had a story to tell."

DETAILS ARE CLASSIFIED
Brennan Saw Russia Intelligence “Worthy” of Investigation
21 hours ago
THE LATEST

At an open hearing of the House Intelligence Committee, former CIA chief John Brennan said he saw information on Trump-Russia contacts that were worth a further look. "Having been involved in many counterintelligence cases in the past, I know what the Russians do. They try to suborn individuals," Brennan said. "And they try to get individuals, including U.S. persons, to act on their behalf, whether wittingly or unwittingly. And I was worried by a number of the contacts that the Russians had with U.S. persons, and so therefore by the time I left office ... I had unresolved questions in my mind."

Source:
STAFF HAS COMPILED A SHORT LIST
Trump Enlisting Help of Outside Counsel
22 hours ago
THE LATEST

"President Trump is moving rapidly toward assembling outside counsel to help him navigate the investigations into his campaign and Russian interference in last year’s election, and in recent days he and his advisers have privately courted several prominent attorneys to join the effort. By Monday, a list of finalists for the legal team had emerged, according to four people briefed on the discussions."

Source:
MADE REQUESTS TO COATS, ROGERS
Trump Asked Intel Chiefs to Push Back Against FBI Probe
23 hours ago
THE LATEST

"President Trump asked two of the nation’s top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, according to current and former officials. Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login