Schumer ready to reinstate Iran sanctions if deadline’s missed

Schumer

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Thursday said he is prepared to vote for additional sanctions against Iran if the Islamic Republic does not reach a political framework agreement with its Western negotiating partners by a March 24 deadline, according to a statement that was first obtained by JNS.org.

Continue reading Schumer ready to reinstate Iran sanctions if deadline’s missed

OBAMA PLEDGES SANCTIONS WILL CONTINUE

THE WHITE HOUSE (TRNS) — American economic sanctions against the government of Iran will continue to be enforced while negotiators work out a long-term deal regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

That, according to President Obama, who made the assertion during a joint press conference today with French President Francois Hollande.

Obama and his administration have been accused of easing fiscal pressure on Iran in return for promises that the regime there will not try to develop a nuclear weapon.

But should Iran walk away from talks, Obama said, existing sanctions ”will likely be tightened.”

AN EXCLUSIVE LOOK AT EFFORTS TO DERAIL IRANIAN SANCTIONS

By DMITRIY SHAPIRO
JNS.org/Washington Jewish Week

Following a slow start mobilizing support to block bipartisan efforts in the Senate and House to place additional sanctions on Iran, opponents of new sanctions—backed by the White House — have organized to make their voices heard. By working behind the scenes, this bipartisan group may have been effective in stopping Congress from acting on sanctions legislation.

A letter to President Obama drafted by U.S. Reps. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) and David Price (D-NC) has been recently circulating on Capitol Hill. A final call to sign the message, titled “Give Diplomacy a Chance Letter to POTUS,” made the rounds of congressional offices Monday after being sent by Jackson Tufts, a military legislative assistant to Price.

The letter, which according to Anya Malkov, a legislative assistant to Doggett, was signed by “more than 90 members, including several Republicans,” opposes additional sanctions as detrimental to the diplomacy being wrought by Secretary of State John Kerry in the quest to prevent the development of a nuclear-armed Iran.

“We understand that there is no assurance of success and that, if talks break down or Iran reneges on pledges it made in the interim agreement, Congress may be compelled to act as it has in the past by enacting additional sanctions legislation,” reads one of the final drafts of the letter. “At present, however, we believe that Congress must give diplomacy a chance. A bill or resolution that risks fracturing our international coalition or, worse yet, undermining our credibility in future negotiations and jeopardizing hard-won progress toward a verifiable final agreement, must be avoided.”

According to Price’s office, the letter is supported by a number of organizations, and was initiated on the Hill sometime after the Jan. 28 State of the Union Address in which Obama vehemently criticized congressional action pushing for more sanctions. Organizations like J Street, Ploughshares, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, Win Without War, and Americans for Peace Now are among those mobilizing their supporters in favor of the letter and against harsher Iran sanctions in general.

When contacted with questions about J Street’s involvement with the letter, a spokesman for the organization told JNS.org that the group would not be making public comments until the letter is finalized.

Another early supporter of the letter was U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), a Muslim legislator whose office is rumored to have helped circulate the letter to other offices.

“A large number of House Democrats are unified against actions that could undermine diplomacy,” Ellison said in a statement to JNS.org. “Negotiations with Iran are complex and we may not reach a final agreement in exactly six months, but we’re the closest we’ve ever been to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”

Signatories to the letter also include Jewish members of Congress with known pro-Israel voting records. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) was one of the leaders in the effort. U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) also signed the letter, according to his communications director. Yarmuth had been a vocal opponent of additional Iran sanctions even before the P5+1 agreement with Iran went into effect late last year.

“As an American first, but also as a Jewish American, I strongly support Israel’s security and our nation’s commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons,” Yarmuth said in a short speech on the House floor Jan. 15. “I also fully support advancing peace and stability in the Middle East through diplomacy whenever possible.”

“We are in the midst of a historic opportunity to prevent nuclear proliferation in Iran, but it is fragile,” he continued. “Congressional interference at such a sensitive time is a high-risk, no-reward proposition.”

Other than the members of Congress who informed JNS.org of their position on the letter when contacted, at press time there was no official, comprehensive list of signatories available.

Though 90 signatories is far from a majority of the 435-member House, and there are no known plans for the House to take up sanctions legislation, the letter’s backers intend to balance the pro-sanctions voices in Congress.

As it stands right now, legislative action on the matter is in the Senate in the form of the Mendendez-Kirk bill, S. 1881. Last month, the Obama administration began lobbying the bipartisan bill’s Democratic sponsor, efforts which appear to have successfully turned the tide in the White House’s favor.

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) spoke on the Senate floor supporting the legislation, which he, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and ranking leader Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced in December.

Menendez, however, backed away from asking for a vote. Rather, he admonished Senate Republicans for writing a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) asking him to send the legislation to the floor. But Menendez also criticized the Obama administration’s statements against his sanctions bill.

“The concerns I have raised [about Iran] here are legitimate,” Menendez said. “They are not — as the president’s press secretary has said—‘war-mongering.’ This is not saber rattling. It is not Congress wanting to ‘march to war,’ as another White House spokeswoman said—but exactly the opposite.”

This is not the first time Price has co-authored a letter on Iran. When Iranian President Hassan Rouhani came to power, Price, along with U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA), authored a letter urging Obama to engage in diplomacy with the new leader. The letter was reportedly signed by 118 members of Congress, including 15 Republicans.

Price sided with the minority last August when the House voted 400 to 20 in support of additional sanctions on Iran. Doggett voted in favor of that bill.

According to multiple House staffers familiar with the debate, the added support for the letter comes from what they view as tangible steps taken between Iran and the U.S. in the P5+1 negotiations that had not yet existed last fall.

This article is exclusive to JNS.org.

MORE SANCTIONS WOULD THREATEN IRAN ACCORD

By BOB DREYFUSS

The interim accord between Iran and the P5+1 reached in November is moving forward, but that hasn’t stopped members of Congress, the Israel lobby and the usual neoconservative suspects from trying to overturn it—especially via the imposition of new economic sanctions. Because the enactment of new sanctions against Iran is virtually certain to overturn the accord and cause Iran to withdraw from the agreement, it’s hard to explain the effort as anything but a deliberate effort by anti-Iran hardliners to blow up the agreement—even though they say, disingenuously, that they believe that increasing pressure on Iran now will force Iran to suspend its nuclear program. Read more here.

WHITE HOUSE THREATENS TO VETO MORE SANCTIONS ON IRAN

The White House is threatening to veto any bill that the Senate might pass that would impose additional sanctions on Iran. Some senators, including members of President Obama’s own party, are distrustful of the easing of sanctions as a carrot to get Tehran to dismantle its nuclear weapons aspirations. The administration feels that any attempt to put more pressure on Iran at this delicate time of negotiations could derail any agreement.

HOW SANCTIONS ON IRAN CAN BACKFIRE

By DANNY SCHECHTER

Piling sanctions on Iran is a political ploy in America. They are President Obama’s main weapon of choice to bring Iran to its knees.

Its his way of showing how tough he is, following in the tradition of former Secretary of State Madeline Albright who told a TV interviewer that the sanctions her administration imposed on Iraq were “worth it,” even as they claimed the lives of a million children.

Iranians see tightening sanctions   – now encouraged by Israel – as a form of undeclared warfare, together with recent large-scale Western naval exercises and the de-listing of an Iranian terrorist group from the US register of terrorist organizations.

Ironically, some experts who look at the impact of sanctions closely find that they are not that effective.

Andrew Davenport writes in the Washington Post, “The reality is that current sanctions policy is simultaneously extensive and flimsy. It amounts, in large part, to labeling a broad array of business activity as ‘sanctionable.’ But with the exception of a handful of cases, the actual sanctioning of violators has been markedly absent.

“Reporters and pundits alike have been complicit in ignoring this important distinction. Accordingly, it may come as a surprise to many that just about every piece of sanctions legislation and every executive order adopted over the past 16 years and advertised as “tightening the screws” on Iran has offered an escape hatch that gives the president discretion over which violators are targeted and whether they are named and penalized.”

To be sure, the sanctions, especially the ones the EU imposed on orders from the US, are hurting and intensifying a currency crisis. (They could also negatively impact declining Eurozone economies.)

The Platts news service that covers oil reports, “President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad admitted earlier this month that Tehran was indeed having ‘problems’ selling oil. The president, quoted by French news agency AFP, said the international sanctions were tantamount to ‘psychological warfare’ but that Tehran was nonetheless making efforts to manage its oil exports.”

The US is also being affected, even if our media doesn’t make the connection. Data forecasts show tight US gasoline stocks down again

Nasdaq reports: “Gasoline stocks are expected to drop by 400,000 barrels, while distillates – diesel fuel and heating oil – are expected to fall by 300,000 barrels. Gasoline stocks in the Northeast U.S. now stand at their lowest level since at least November 1990, when the EIA began to track regional inventories. Nationwide, gasoline stocks are the lowest in nearly four years.”

A report in the Globalist examined some key contradictions in the US policy.

“The Obama administration wants to maintain tough oil sanctions on Iran, convince Saudi Arabia to boost oil production so prices don’t rise at the pump, and promote a dream of US energy independence by exploiting new technologies for domestic production. That may sound like a good reelection strategy, writes Mathew Hulbert, but it is completely unrealistic as an energy policy.”

Here’s part of what Hulbert then explains:

“The first problem concerns the linkage between US foreign policy preferences and the price of fuel at the pump. It is simply impossible to square the circle between currently cheap US petroleum and the on-going Iranian sanctions pressure.

“President Obama basically has two tricks up his sleeve to do this. Plan A is the hotline to Saudi Arabia to pump more oil. Plan B is keeping his finger close to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve button if things spin out of control.

“Both options are problematic. And both very much highlight just how far U.S. energy independence has to go before it’s a credible policy option — and not just self-pleasing hype.”

He also notes the Saudis don’t want to pump more oil. Already, at the US’s bidding, South Africa has replaced Iran as their main supplier of crude oil. That led to the biggest single price hike at the pump for consumers ever, squeezing poor people in one of the world’s newest democracies.

The Saudis see all of Washington’s talk of “energy independence,” as an economic threat in an interdependent world.

“Reminding the Saudis of the coming market onslaught from the Untied States (assuming it materializes in full bore) isn’t such a good idea when they are supposed to keep opening the taps to help ease America through difficult presidential elections,” Hulbert writes.

“The Saudis have grudgingly helped take some of the steam out of the market in the past few weeks. But if it is to keep playing this moderating role in the coming weeks, it shouldn’t be taken as an operational decision…The Saudis are well aware that, over the long run, the United States is going to kill the supply-side goose that laid OPEC’s golden egg.”

Bear in mind, US sanctions on Iran go back to November 1979, and have been tightened over the years but have not brought down the Iranian government or economy

A report to Congress in 2007 concluded, “ the overall impact of sanctions, and the extent to which these sanctions further US objectives, is unclear.”

What is clear is that oil is Iran’s most important export.

The Journal of Energy Security reports: “Iran is a member of Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and it has the fourth largest proven oil reserves and second largest natural gas reserves in the world.   The 2011 CIA World Fact Book estimates Iran’s GDP purchasing power parity is $928.9 billion and ranks 17th in the world out of 226 countries. A July 2011 IMF estimate suggested that Iran’s export of oil and gas reached $100 billion and represents 78-85% of total exports.”

Iran’s principal customers are India and China with 34% of the oil exports. Oil experts were speculating that inorder to find buyers, Iran would have to discount its price by as much as 15% but a 15% hike in oil prices has mitigated that.

The US has also exempted many countries from oil sanctions because of their reliance on Iranian oil. Iran has a large foreign exchange reserve and is in no imminent danger of collapse from sanctions,

While Iranian leaders admit the sanctions are a problem, one scholar, Akbar E. Torbat of the California State University in an assessment of the impact of sanctions, adds this note of realism: “Iran could find other buyers for its oil in a rather short time due to the fact that oil is a fungible commodity and the world market for oil is to a certain extent competitive.”

And what that sentence suggests is a loophole you can drive a tanker through, and that Iran is not without options in a battle that some want, and others fear, could lead to war.

News Dissector Danny Schechter blogs at News Dissector.net His latest books are Blogothom and Occupy: Dissecting Occupy Wall Street (Cosimo Books). He hosts a show on ProgressiveRadioNetwork.(PRN.fm) Comments to Dissector@mediachannel.org

 

New sanctions on Iran could drive oil prices up

No oil imported from Iran will be permitted in European Union nations any longer with the new imposition of sanctions. That could drive the price of oil up at the pump. But it presumably would hurt Iran far more. Because about half of Iran’s income is based on the sale of its crude.

The sanctions were ordered because of Iran’s failure to squelch its nuclear weapons program as required by the UN.

The European assets of Iran’s Central bank are also being frozen.

Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a major transit for oil tankers, in retaliation for additional sanctions. The United States has vowed to keep the strait open.

No oil imported from Iran will be permitted in European Union nations any longer with the new imposition of sanctions. That could drive the price of oil up at the pump. But it presumably would hurt Iran far more. Because about half of Iran’s income is based on the sale of its crude.

The sanctions were ordered because of Iran’s failure to squelch its nuclear weapons program as required by the UN.

The European assets of Iran’s Central bank are also being frozen.