Menendez Demands to Know ‘Endgame’ for Future Iran Deals

Next, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) provided keynote remarks. 
National Journal
Sara Sorcher
Add to Briefcase
Sara Sorcher
Dec. 12, 2013, 9:29 a.m.

Sen. Robert Men­en­dez isn’t go­ing to let the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion for­get that Con­gress knows bet­ter when it comes to pres­sur­ing Ir­an. Now, the New Jer­sey Demo­crat wants more than just new sanc­tions the ad­min­is­tra­tion is warn­ing against — he wants a res­ol­u­tion to define the “en­dgame” for any fu­ture deal with Ir­an.

Men­en­dez has proven him­self an Ir­an hawk, ready to buck his own party in the White House. Con­gress has proven be­fore — and could again — that mem­bers are a for­mid­able force on this is­sue.

Flash back to Decem­ber 2011, when Un­der­sec­ret­ary of State for Polit­ic­al Af­fairs Wendy Sher­man and Treas­ury Un­der­sec­ret­ary for Ter­ror­ism and Fin­an­cial In­tel­li­gence Dav­id Co­hen were seated — as they were again Thursday — be­fore a Sen­ate pan­el ar­guing against more sanc­tions on Ir­an. At the time, they ar­gued, mem­bers’ pro­posed sanc­tions tar­get­ing for­eign fin­an­cial in­sti­tu­tions that do busi­ness with the Cent­ral Bank of Ir­an would have un­in­ten­ded ef­fects. They would splinter the glob­al al­li­ance work­ing to pres­sure Tehran and boost oil prices — which would give Ir­an more money to fund its nuc­le­ar am­bi­tions.

But the Sen­ate did not listen. The sanc­tions passed un­an­im­ously as an amend­ment to the fisc­al 2012 de­fense policy bill days later.

“That amend­ment went on to pass 100 to zero, and it is one of the things the ad­min­is­tra­tion her­alds today as the es­sence of what has got­ten Ir­an to the ne­go­ti­at­ing table,” said Men­en­dez, now chair­man of the For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, at a Sen­ate Bank­ing Com­mit­tee hear­ing Thursday. “I just want to put on the re­cord my skep­ti­cism” — about the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s op­pos­i­tion to new meas­ures now as world powers ne­go­ti­ate with Ir­an — “based on the his­tory we’ve had.”

Men­en­dez has been in fa­vor of pro­spect­ive sanc­tions that could be im­posed after the six-month win­dow of the in­ter­im deal between world powers and Ir­an ex­pires or founders. He’s now call­ing for more. “I’m be­gin­ning to think that maybe what the Sen­ate needs to do is define the en­dgame and at least what it finds as ac­cept­able as the fi­nal status,” Men­en­dez said.

He would have help from the House, where Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Eric Can­tor, R-Va., and Minor­ity Whip Steny Hoy­er, D-Md., are try­ing to sim­il­arly out­line what should be in a fi­nal agree­ment with Ir­an through a res­ol­u­tion.

Mem­bers are deeply sus­pi­cious about the cur­rent deal on the table, which stip­u­lates Ir­an will elim­in­ate its most dan­ger­ous stock­pile of urani­um en­riched at 20 per­cent and halt en­rich­ment of stocks above 5 per­cent but does not pre­clude Ir­an from keep­ing some en­rich­ment cap­ab­il­ity. They are wor­ried the in­ter­im deal would give Ir­an an eco­nom­ic life­line just as it’s be­gin­ning to com­prom­ise.

At the Bank­ing Com­mit­tee hear­ing, Co­hen de­fen­ded the in­ter­im deal, in­sist­ing that the up to $7 bil­lion in sanc­tions re­lief will not ma­ter­i­ally im­prove the con­di­tion of the Ir­a­ni­an eco­nomy. “At the end of the six-month peri­od, we ex­pect that Ir­an will be even deep­er in the hole eco­nom­ic­ally than it is today,” he said. Ir­an’s eco­nom­ic woes — in­clud­ing the fact that oil ex­ports sig­ni­fic­antly de­creased, and its whole eco­nomy con­trac­ted by more than 5 per­cent un­der the crush of sanc­tions — “dwarf” the lim­ited re­lief offered to Ir­an in the deal, he said. And Co­hen stressed that sanc­tions would con­tin­ue to be en­forced: Just hours be­fore the hear­ing, Treas­ury des­ig­nated a slew of com­pan­ies and in­di­vidu­als as vi­ol­at­ors of in­ter­na­tion­al sanc­tions against Ir­an for provid­ing sup­port to its nuc­le­ar pro­gram.

What’s more, Sher­man prom­ised the sanc­tions re­lief would not come in a lump sum. Even the $4.2 bil­lion in re­stric­ted as­sets would come in monthly al­loc­a­tions to keep up with veri­fied Ir­a­ni­an pro­gress on its nuc­le­ar com­mit­ments.

And there are some signs that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s charm of­fens­ive to con­vince skep­tic­al mem­bers of Con­gress to hold off on new sanc­tions is work­ing.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion ap­peared to win a key sup­port­er in Bank­ing Com­mit­tee Chair­man Tim John­son, D-S.D., who, des­pite hav­ing ne­go­ti­ated a sanc­tions bill with his rank­ing mem­ber, Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, is will­ing to hold off — for now. “I agree the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­quest for a dip­lo­mat­ic pause is reas­on­able,” John­son said. Con­gress must be will­ing to provide the ad­min­is­tra­tion time, he said, since “a new round of U.S. sanc­tions now could rup­ture the unity of the in­ter­na­tion­al co­ali­tion against Ir­an’s nuc­le­ar pro­gram.” His sanc­tions bill, however, could be “fi­nal­ized and moved quickly” if Ir­an fails to com­ply with the agree­ment or ne­go­ti­ations col­lapse.

Crapo, too, said the U.S. should vig­or­ously en­force the core of ex­ist­ing sanc­tions and “de­vel­op a plan of ac­tion in the event that ne­go­ti­ations do not pro­duce the res­ults that dip­lo­mats want.”

Sher­man and Co­hen were clear that they did not want the U.S. to be seen as re­spons­ible for des­troy­ing ne­go­ti­ations. But Ir­an’s own ac­tions — in­clud­ing its plans to launch a rock­et next week, which Men­en­dez called a cov­er for a mil­it­ary bal­list­ic-weapons pro­gram — are “pro­voc­at­ive” and “a sign of bad faith,” he said.

For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee rank­ing mem­ber Bob Cork­er, R-Tenn., de­cried how com­pan­ies would soon seek to do busi­ness with Ir­an, and the rogue state could be con­sidered part of the in­ter­na­tion­al com­munity for keep­ing its bar­gain with world powers.

“It’s an out­stand­ing agree­ment for them, be­cause in six months they’re go­ing to be a nor­mal in­ter­na­tion­al en­tity,” Cork­er said. “I don’t see any way you hold the sanc­tions, but, again, ob­vi­ously, we’re dis­ap­poin­ted but hope­ful that some­how you can put the genie back in the bottle and end up with some type of agree­ment that averts war­fare.”

But even Cork­er ad­mit­ted that with a full dock­et in the Sen­ate, and strong op­pos­i­tion from the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, mem­bers may not ac­tu­ally take the step to go through with threats to im­pose sanc­tions.

“I real­ize,” Cork­er said, “we’re sort of go­ing to a rope-a-dope here in the Sen­ate, and that we’re not ac­tu­ally go­ing to do any­thing.”

What We're Following See More »
WITH LIVE BLOGGING
Trump Deposition Video Is Online
13 hours ago
STAFF PICKS

The video of Donald Trump's deposition in his case against restaurateur Jeffrey Zakarian is now live. Slate's Jim Newell and Josh Voorhees are live-blogging it while they watch.

Source:
SOUND LEVEL AFFECTED
Debate Commission Admits Issues with Trump’s Mic
14 hours ago
THE LATEST

The Commission on Presidential Debates put out a statement today that gives credence to Donald Trump's claims that he had a bad microphone on Monday night. "Regarding the first debate, there were issues regarding Donald Trump's audio that affected the sound level in the debate hall," read the statement in its entirety.

Source:
TRUMP VS. CHEFS
Trump Deposition Video to Be Released
14 hours ago
THE LATEST

"A video of Donald Trump testifying under oath about his provocative rhetoric about Mexicans and other Latinos is set to go public" as soon as today. "Trump gave the testimony in June at a law office in Washington in connection with one of two lawsuits he filed last year after prominent chefs reacted to the controversy over his remarks by pulling out of plans to open restaurants at his new D.C. hotel. D.C. Superior Court Judge Brian Holeman said in an order issued Thursday evening that fears the testimony might show up in campaign commercials were no basis to keep the public from seeing the video."

Source:
A CANDIDATE TO BE ‘PROUD’ OF
Chicago Tribune Endorses Gary Johnson
17 hours ago
THE LATEST

No matter that his recall of foreign leaders leaves something to be desired, Gary Johnson is the choice of the Chicago Tribune's editorial board. The editors argue that Donald Trump couldn't do the job of president, while hitting Hillary Clinton for "her intent to greatly increase federal spending and taxation, and serious questions about honesty and trust." Which leaves them with Johnson. "Every American who casts a vote for him is standing for principles," they write, "and can be proud of that vote. Yes, proud of a candidate in 2016."

NEVER TRUMP
USA Today Weighs in on Presidential Race for First Time Ever
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

"By all means vote, just not for Donald Trump." That's the message from USA Today editors, who are making the first recommendation on a presidential race in the paper's 34-year history. It's not exactly an endorsement; they make clear that the editorial board "does not have a consensus for a Clinton endorsement." But they state flatly that Donald Trump is, by "unanimous consensus of the editorial board, unfit for the presidency."

Source:
×