LORI LOWENTHAL MARCUS:Lawmakers: Obama Watering Down Iran Sanctions, PA Punishment

http://www.jewishpress.com/news/lawmakers-obama-watering-down-iran-sanctions-pa-punishment/2012/12/14/0/

There are some in Congress who are fed up not only with the unilateral actions taken by the Arab Palestinians to subvert the agreed-upon path to Middle East conflict resolution, but also with this administration’s repeated efforts to create unlevel footing such that Israel is doomed to stumble and fall on the world stage.

Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-CO5), is one long-time supporter of Israel who is deeply unhappy about recent events that endanger the Jewish State, and the reluctance of this administration to aggressively block – and sometimes is the one that needs blocking – of those actions.

In response to the Arab Palestinian effort to upgrade their status at the United Nations from non-state to state non-member observer, pro-Israel, pro-peace (the real kind) members of the U.S. Senate moved to impose consequences on the Arab Palestinians for thumbing their noses at the Obama administration and Congress and for shredding the remnants of the Oslo agreements.

Even before the U.N. Resolution passed, Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wy.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and James Inhofe (R-Okla. ) introduced amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act to cut funding to the PA and to close the PLO mission in Washington, D.C., which is what the Arabs were told would happen if they moved forward with their U.N. ploy. Pro-Israel groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the National Council of Young Israel and the Zionist Organization of America condemned the U.N. resolution and urged that stiff consequences be imposed.

However, when the NDAA was reported out of the Senate in early December, the amendments designed to enforce consequences on the PA for its unilateral U.N. action had been stripped from the bill. There was some speculation at the time that it was pressure from the White House, or even that it was left-wing anti-Israel political heft that forced lawmakers to remove those measures.

According to Washington, D.C. journalist Alana Goodman, the amendments were removed because of Senate procedural rules. She wrote,

The amendment was dropped from the bill because of a technicality in Senate procedure, according to Senator Lindsey Graham’s office, which sponsored it.“Once cloture was invoked, the amendment was not eligible for a vote because it was not technically germane to the legislation,” said Graham spokesperson Kevin Bishop.

Cong. Lamborn believes that “the NDAA is too far along in the process – it is going to conference, probably by next week” – to affect aid to the PA through that vehicle, but he told The Jewish Press that concerned members are already working on vehicles to impose the necessary consequences on the Arab Palestinians.

THE PATTERN CONTINUES WITH WATERING DOWN IRAN SANCTIONS

But Lamborn is also deeply concerned with continued efforts by the administration to “water down” the latest sanctions on Iran. While U.S. administration cheerleaders continue to extol their efforts in passing “biting” sanctions, there have been reports that even in the latest efforts to sanction – i.e. punish, deter, prevent wrongdoing – Iran for moving forward on its path towards nuclear weaponization, this U.S. administration insists on weakening the efforts.

The latest sanctions which passed unanimously through the Senate on Nov. 30 as part of the NDAA, would blacklist Iran’s energy, port, shipbuilding and shipping sectors, and impose new barriers to Iran’s ability to obtain insurance for those industries. It would also greatly increase U.S. support for human rights in Iran and impose harsh penalties on those who divert humanitarian assistance to other purposes.

But Tommy Vietor, the National Security Council’s Spokesman, explained that it is “the White House’s view the sanctions aren’t needed and aren’t helpful at this time,” according to Josh Rogin in White House Opposed New Iran Sanctions,” in Foreign Policy.

Journalist Rosie Gray posted in an article the administration’s redlined draft of the Senate amendments to the current Iran sanctions bill she said were submitted to the Armed Services Committee of the House and Senate. One of the most significant proposed changes is the doubling of the time in which the sanctions would take effect, from the 90 days which the Senate proposed, to 180 days. Gray said the document was provided to her by a Democratic source.

Gray writes,

The bill as passed by the Senate would bar transactions with businesses owned by Iran’s government, which are on a Department of the Treasury list of “specially designated nationals,” or SDN’s. The administration wants to prevent this part from applying to any of these business entities that aren’t already flagged for terrorism, human rights abuses or proliferation. The administration also wants to remove sanctions from metal providers.

Perhaps of greatest concern is that the administration continues to insert or offer additional waivers to countries, thereby undercutting what other wise might actually be biting sanctions.

Gray continues,

The legislation as it stands would give President Obama a national security waiver on all the sanctions, and the administration is looking to boost this power with three more waiver opportunities.

In addition to the administration, there are others who oppose the new sanctions. For example, Jamal Abdi, the National Iranian American Council’s Policy Director dislikes them because they limit the “President’s flexibility at the negotiating table and undermines confidence that the U.S. can make a deal.”

Imagine that – the Iranians don’t like the new sanctions.

Reza Aslan, an Iranian-American member of the Council on Foreign Relations and an editor at the Daily Beast, also criticized the sanctions the U.S. Senate unanimously agreed to implement as “little more than empty politicking by senators.”

On the other hand, even Israelis such as former Mossad head Efraim HaLevy, trotted out by pro-administration advocates for his refusal to endorse the idea of setting a “red line” regarding Iran’s nuclear activity and his general abhorrence of a military option, said that continuing and increasing sanctions are essential if there is to be a diplomatic solution, and that “the sanctions have not brought the end to the [Iranian nuclear weapons] program but sanctions are hurting very much.”

Meanwhile, Cong. Lamborn is hopping mad that the administration is “continuing in its historic pattern of watering down sanctions and avoiding imposing any effective means of deterring the ‘Palestinians’” from pursuing their illicit goals through illegal maneuvers. He is greatly alarmed by the weak approach of the administration.

Lamborn cautioned, “Time is starting to run out on an Iran option.”

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