By John B. Judis
January 28, 2014
My attention wandered through much of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech, but I perked up when I heard Obama say, “Let me be clear: if this Congress sends me a new sanctions bill now that threatens to derail these talks [with Iran], I will veto it.” That is something the President can do. And it’s very important that he made this threat.
Obama and the Democrats are not going to get most of their domestic agenda through the Republican House of Representatives, but the President and the Secretary of State have a chance to score a breakthrough in negotiations with Iran. If they, along with France, the UK, Germany, Russia and China, can secure a lasting agreement with Iran that limits Iran’s nuclear capacity to civilian uses, they will have prevented a nuclear arms race in the combustible Middle East and will have put American relations with Iran, a major player in the region, on a new footing.
But 43 Republicans and 16 Democrats have signed onto a new Iran sanctions bill, backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, that could potentially derail these negotiations. It would introduce new requirements for a final nuclear weapons agreement—requirements that the U.S., Iran and the five signatories to the interim agreement have already ruled out, including a bar on enriching uranium for a civilian nuclear program. It would also add entirely new requirements bearing on missile development and Iran’s support for Hezbollah. And, incredibly, it would commit the United States to providing military support to Israel in the event it is “compelled” to take military action against Iran. California Senator Dianne Feinstein said of this provision, “While I recognize and share Israel’s concern, we cannot let Israel determine when and where the United States goes to war.” (Edward Levine of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation has provided an excellent analysis of the bill’s glaring faults.)
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