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Rope-a-Dope

On Friday, this report suggested that the U.S. was about to get serious with Iran:

U.S. Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), speaking Thursday in Washington at the National Jewish Leadership Advocacy Day on Iran, told more than 300 Jewish leaders that he will mark up the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act in October and “begin the process of tightening the screws on Tehran” if Iran “does not reverse course.”

The legislation would allow the sanctioning of companies that help Iran import or produce refined petroleum, which is seen as potentially having a large impact on Iran’s economy because the country imports 40 percent of its refined petroleum.

Berman said the clock has “almost run out” on Iran.

“If the Iranians are going to engage in a meaningful and significant way that will spell the end of their nuclear enrichment program, we’ll open a new chapter with them,” he said. “But let’s clarify ‘meaningful’ — we’re not going to be conned by an Iranian rope-a-dope, its stalling efforts. We have no intention of spending months analyzing old proposals which are offered merely to delay imposition of sanctions.”

The Obama administration has signaled that it will reconsider its efforts to engage Iran on its pursuit of nuclear weapons if no progress has been made by the end of September.

By the end of the day, the administration had announced that September was, well, not really a deadline and that we would be entering into talks despite Iran’s not having agreed to discuss its nuclear program. In fact, Iran had already said the opposite. But we’ll be talking anyway.

One wonders what Rep. Berman thinks now. The administration has made itself, and those who were banking on some onset of diplomatic sobriety, look foolish. Those in Congress who were moving forward with an array of sanctions to enhance Obama’s bargaining position have been undercut by an administration that apparently doesn’t want its bargaining position enhanced.

The administration has prostrated itself before the Iranian regime and afforded it still more time to continue with its nuclear-weapons program. It has signaled that it has neither the will nor the interest to set deadlines or enforce them, and that it has failed to lay the groundwork for sanctions. If this isn’t “rope-a-dope” negotiations, I don’t know what Berman could possibly have had in mind. And in this case, the administration has willingly supplied the rope.


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