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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

House finally moving on Iran sanctions?

Politico's Ben Smith reports that the US House of Representatives may be moving ahead on implementing unilateral US sanctions on the sale of refined oil products to Iran.
A source notes that the House Foreign Affairs Committee is, according to the Congressional Record, selecting conferrees for legislation aimed at imposing tough sanctions on Iran, despite the notable lack of White House enthusiasm.

A letter calling for "crippling sanctions" now has the support of more than 80% of the members of both bodies, but the White House continues to try to rally support for sanctions from Russia and China, which appear reluctant to impose sanctions.

The move toward conference suggests that chairman Howard Berman and the House leadership are ready to push ahead on sanctions in Congress, which could add pressure to the international negotiations.
Well, maybe, says Jennifer Rubin.
Do we believe this? After all, it’s April, and we’ve still not had a conference. Berman fancies himself as a great defender of Israel who is very concerned about the existential threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran, yet he’s been foot-dragging for months, no doubt at the behest of the White House. So now we’re maybe going to have a meeting? And then there is the Senate side, where Sens. Kerry, Dodd, Durbin, and Reid were noticeably absent from the letters calling for movement on the sanctions bill. One supposes they are throwing sand in the gears, as well. Let’s see how quickly the conference moves forward and whether something hits the president’s desk before the expected completion of UN sanctions. (June? Six months from never?)
While I'm tempted to share Jennifer's pessimism, there is one factor here that might help the sanctions bill get moving: Midterm elections. Like Congress, the American people overwhelmingly favor sanctions (and even military action if necessary) against Iran. If Congress recesses at the end of the summer without passing the sanctions bill and without a UN Security Council resolution putting sanctions in place, there are going to be a lot of members in close elections (Dodd and Reid both come to mind on the Senate side) who are going to have another issue for which they have no answer. I don't believe these members are willing to give up their seats for Obama.

The picture at the top is Representative Howard Berman (D-Cal).


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