Not So Fast on Sanctions

The House voted overwhelmingly, 412-12, in favor of the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act authorizing the president to impose penalties on foreign companies that sell oil to Iran or that help the country with its oil-producing capacity. AIPAC applauded the move. (“The United States and our allies must do everything we can to use crippling diplomatic and economic pressure to peaceably prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and avoid confronting more distressing alternatives.”) The J Street crowd was quiet because the administration isn’t thrilled with the move. (Whatever the most dovish position in the administration might conceivably be, we have learned, will bear an uncanny resemblance to the line of the day from J Street.) Wait — didn’t we turn a corner? Isn’t the administration hinting at sanctions? For now, at least, the administration is pulling back on the reins. This report explains:

Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, in a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, said the Obama administration was “entering a critical period of intense diplomacy to impose significant international pressure on Iran.” Sanctions legislation “might weaken rather than strengthen international unity and support for our efforts,” Steinberg’s letter said.

This is a crowd that’s allergic to leverage. Because the Foggy Bottom team is pleading or getting ready to plead with Russia, China, and the rest, the administration doesn’t even want the authority to act on its own should the “international community” wimp out. Such authority, never mind action, might rattle or annoy our sanctions “partners.” Rep. Howard Berman, who sponsored the measure, doesn’t buy that. (“The House passage of this legislation empowers the administration to point out that, ‘Here is a way a lot of people in Congress want to go, and we think there is a better way, but this issue will not go away.’ “) Berman diplomatically said that the administration neither encouraged or discouraged him, leaving unsaid that the administration is doing what it can to halt any Senate action.

0
Shares
Google+ Print

Not So Fast on Sanctions

Must-Reads from Magazine

Revenge of the Unduly Reprieved

Clemancy for Manning and Arpaio backfires.

Americans are about to have another “entertaining” election cycle at a time when the country desperately needs a return to boredom and predictability. In Arizona, former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s decision to challenge conspiracy-theory enthusiast and former state Senator Kelli Ward ensures that the race to replace retiring Senator Jeff Flake will become a competition to see who can do their best Roy Moore impression. Democrats should hold the schadenfreude. They have their own embarrassment to contain in Maryland, where Chelsea Manning—the former U.S. Army soldier court-martialed in 2013 for violating the Espionage Act—will challenge Senator Ben Cardin. Both candidacies represent a humiliating stain on their respective parties, not just because they are reflective of their increasingly legitimized fringes, but because they are the result of the worst ideological excesses of Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

17
Shares
Google+ Print

Republicans Are About to Lose an Election About Values

The coming Republican depression.

Congressional Republicans passed tax-code reform into law on December 19, and the near-term effects exceeded even the most wide-eyed optimist’s imaginings. Almost every day since, some large employer has announced its intention to reinvest in capital and workers what they will save as a result of the reduction in the corporate tax rate. This means more employment opportunities and things like raises, bonuses, and 401(k) hikes. Manufacturing is repatriating into the U.S. as a result of the tax bill, and even the minimum wage is on the rise for several major employers. Events have humbled Democrats who predicted that the GOP’s tax reform initiative would only benefit the wealthiest. Republicans should enjoy this modest vindication because it’s all they’re going to get. A reckoning is coming for the GOP, and it has nothing to do with the party’s policies. Voters seem prepared to deliver a negative verdict on Donald Trump.

40
Shares
Google+ Print

Letter From a Shitholer

A moment for moral clarity.

Dear President Trump:

249
Shares
Google+ Print

Two Dossiers, Zero Standards

Hypocrisy and self-righteousness.

BuzzFeed News editor in chief Ben Smith would like you to know that he’s proud of his organization’s decision to publish the raw, unverified intelligence product that has come to be known as the Steele Dossier. He shouldn’t be.

15
Shares
Google+ Print

The Fiction that Destabilizes the Middle East

Liberating Lebanon.

If I were compiling a foreign policy wish list for 2018, high on the list would be ending the fiction that Lebanon is an independent country rather than an Iranian satrapy governed by Iran’s foreign legion, Hezbollah. The Western foreign policy establishment maintains this fiction out of good intentions; it wants to protect innocent Lebanese from suffering the consequences of Hezbollah’s military provocations against its neighbors. But this policy has enabled Hezbollah to devastate several neighboring countries with impunity, and it’s paving the way to a war that will devastate Lebanon itself.

44
Shares
Google+ Print