Subscribe to The Jewish Standard free weekly newsletter

 
Blogs
 

entries tagged with: Iran Sanctions

 

Push expected on Iran sanctions, Mideast peace talks

WASHINGTON – Timing, if not intent, inevitably is weaving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process into the efforts to end Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program.

The major powers are meeting this week in Germany to coordinate Iran policy ahead of the U.N. General Assembly later this month. At the same time, Israeli officials are in Washington planning a joint summit of the Israeli, Palestinian, and American leaders during the General Assembly.

President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have steadfastly denied linkage between the two issues. Obama says he is determined to contain Iran whether or not Israel plays ball on the Palestinian issue, and Netanyahu insists he is doing all he can to advance the peace process however Iran sanctions play out.

Nonetheless, recent events have driven both processes into a synchronicity, including meetings Netanyahu held with European leaders last week that focused both on Iran and international calls for a Jewish settlement freeze in the west bank.

When the International Atomic Energy Agency issued an unusually blunt report on Aug. 28 saying that Iran still was not cooperating with efforts to assess whether it is militarizing its civilian nuclear program, it provided support to the tough line European leaders have been taking recently against Iran.

“We already have sanctions in place, but we can go further on sanctions, and we’re ready to do that,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a joint news conference with Netanyahu on Aug. 27 during the Israeli prime minister’s visit to Germany.

Merkel stressed that to be effective, sanctions must include Russia and China, two major trading partners with the Islamic Republic that until now have been reluctant to expand sanctions.

“We will not be able to allow for a situation where a few countries of the European Union and America are in on this but we leave China, for example, Russia, and other countries outside of this,” she said.

There are parallel efforts in the U.S. Congress to pass a unilateral sanctions package targeting Iran’s energy sector and banking system.

It seemed clear that Germany, France, Britain, and the United States were prepared to make the strong sanctions case possible this week when their representatives meet in Germany with representatives of Russia and China at a pre-General Assembly gathering of the “P5 plus 1” — the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said last week that Iran’s discredited election in June robbed the nation of credibility.

“It is the same leaders in Iran who say that the nuclear program is peaceful and that the elections were honest,” Sarkozy was reported by Reuters as saying in his annual address Aug. 26 to French ambassadors. “Who can believe them?”

The same day, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown also expressed skepticism about Iran’s denials that its civilian nuclear program did not have a military end.

On Tuesday, Iranian media reported that Tehran was prepared to offer a new nuclear package to the international community. Details were not forthcoming.

The prospect of international unanimity on isolating Iran may help pave the way for Netanyahu to freeze settlement building in the west bank and Jerusalem, a component the Obama administration considers critical to advancing the peace process.

Israeli media reports suggest that the Americans and Israelis have arrived at a formula that would end their recent war of words over settlements: Netanyahu effectively would end settlement expansion, including construction in eastern Jerusalem, and the United States would back away from unequivocal demands for a stop to such building.

U.S. officials in recent days seemed to be tamping down their anti-settlement rhetoric.

“We want to keep these negotiations in a confidential, diplomatic track,” State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said Aug. 26 when he was pressed on the settlement matter. “We are in a sensitive time.”

Netanyahu met in London last week with George Mitchell, Obama’s top Middle East envoy, who issued a statement afterward describing “good progress” toward resuming talks with the Palestinians.

On the peace process, European leaders have praised Netanyahu’s measures to ease daily life for west bank Palestinians.

“I strongly welcome his recent moves to remove checkpoints on the west bank,” Brown said last week at his joint news conference with Netanyahu. “An economic road map should underpin and sustain political dialogue, and I know that the prime minister is committed to exactly that.”

This week, Israeli President Shimon Peres told reporters that the next step was a summit during the General Assembly bringing together Obama, Netanyahu, and the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas.

Obama, according to Ha’aretz, will outline a two-year timetable toward arriving at a final-status deal. That would correspond with the plan announced last week by Salam Fayyad, the P.A. prime minister, to establish a de facto Palestinian state within two years.

Abbas and Fayyad are eager to undercut both Hamas, the terrorist group controlling the Gaza Strip, and their own Fatah Party’s young guard, who challenged the establishment leadership during the recent party congress. A plan for statehood could underscore the leadership’s seriousness against a recent history that instead has suggested impotence against Israel and Hamas.

U.S. officials have welcomed the plan, insofar as it calls for the establishment of critical infrastructure.

But Israel’s Foreign Ministry rejected Fayyad’s unilateralism, albeit in tepid terms suggesting that Israel might endorse a plan that was less unequivocal about a deadline for statehood.

“The Palestinians’ unilateral initiatives do not contribute to a positive dialogue between the parties, and if the unilateral initiative presented by Salam Fayyad is promoted, Israel will respond,” Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a statement Monday. “A positive dynamic must be created between both sides without committing to target dates for an overall arrangement, which in the past gave rise to disappointment and frustration, which led to the outbreak of conflict between the two sides.”

JTA

 
 

Record delegation from NORPAC advocates for Israel in D.C.

image
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) meets with a delegation from NORPAC.

At 4:30 a.m. last Wednesday, while most people were still dreaming in bed, 1,040 people were getting ready to join the NORPAC Mission to Washington. The non-partisan North Jersey political action committee supports the U.S.-Israel relationship by advocating on key issues, including foreign aid, Palestinian incitement, the Middle East peace process, and Iran sanctions.

Twenty-four buses pulled up to the Washington Convention Center in the late morning to be greeted by a lineup of speakers from Congress as well as a keynote speaker. The participants flooded two ballrooms and began the program by singing The Star Spangled Banner, Hatikvah, and in recognition of Yom Yerushalayim, “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav.”

After an introduction by Dr. Richard Schlussel, the mission chair, speakers included Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), former Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.), and Reps. Mike Castle (R-Del.) and Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) Dr. Mort Fridman, NORPAC vice president, introduced the keynote speaker, Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren.

Following the speeches, 450 members of Congress — including 95 senators — held private meetings with NORPAC participants, who advocated on four issues.

The first issue was the 2011 foreign aid request for Israel, which is expected to be $3 billion. Of that aid, 70 percent is in the form of credits to be spent in the United States, supporting high-tech defense jobs.

image
Israel’s Ambassador Michael Oren addresses the group.

“This aid is more of an investment than an expense,” said Dr, Ben Chouake, NORPAC president. “Given Israel’s strategic location on the Mediterranean with access to the Red Sea, and other vital shipping lanes, it is imperative that Israel continues to serve as a port of call for our military and intelligence operations,”

Participants noted to members of Congress that the United States is slated to provide a $550 million aid package to the Palestinians in the disputed territories and Gaza. They wanted assurances that the Palestinian Authority would be held accountable for the allocation of the funds, inasmuch as more than $7 billion of aid to the Palestinians cannot be accounted for. NORPAC members also advocated that U.S. aid be conditional on ending anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement in Palestinian news broadcasts, publications, and schools.

The participants urged the lawmakers to support the U.S.-led peace process, under which Arab states and the Palestinians must accept the legitimacy of the Jewish state of Israel. According to Chouake, “Although the current Israeli government has accepted the concept of a two-state solution and has made countless other concessions, Arabs and Palestinians refuse to even recognize a Jewish state. Peace cannot possibly be achieved when one of the parties is unwilling to recognize the other.”

The last item on the NORPAC agenda called for urging legislators to encourage the process to proceed and to support the final version of the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act of 2009.

Different versions of this bill have been passed by the Senate and House and are now in reconciliation. Mission members stressed the importance of the bill’s passage in order to send a clear message to Teheran that its current course toward nuclear armament cannot stand.

image
Rep. Eric Cantor was one of the speakers

According to Chouake, who said that NORPAC put the Iran Sanctions bill on the map three years ago, it is critically close to passage. He added that members of Congress from both parties agreed that time is running out to address this existential threat to the world and, in consensus fashion, pledged to resist attempts to weaken or delay the bill.

The group heard concluding addresses by Reps. Eric Cantor (R-W.V.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), and Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) and Sen. David Vitter (R-La.).

Schlussel said of the mission, “We were all gratified at seeing so many of our members being received so graciously by our nation’s leaders.”

For more information on NORPAC and the mission, go to www.norpac.net or call (201) 788-5733.

 
 

Congress delays sanctions bill, with AIPAC blessing

WASHINGTON – In a sign of closer White House-congressional coordination on Iran, Congress is delaying an Iran sanctions bill several weeks to give the Obama administration time to shepherd new sanctions through the U.N. Security Council.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee blessed the delay, in part because parallel measures are under consideration that would stiffen existing sanctions aimed at getting the Iranian regime to stand down from its suspected nuclear weapons program.

“We have always said that tough multilateral sanctions are the most effective means to persuade Iran to cease its efforts to develop a nuclear weapons capability — a demand repeated time and again by the international community — and we applaud the efforts of President Obama and his national security team to unite the other permanent members of the Security Council behind this urgent goal,” said a joint statement by Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.

The statement predicted passage by the “latter half of June.”

Both the House and Senate have passed versions of enhanced unilateral sanctions that would target third parties — including countries, individuals, and companies — that deal with Iran’s energy sector. The bills are undergoing reconciliation, and congressional leaders had said they would pass this month.

The Obama administration has lobbied hard to delay the congressional sanctions, fearing that they could alienate the major powers it has persuaded to join the Security Council’s multilateral sanctions.

The enhanced Security Council sanctions, targeting Iran’s banking sector and mandating inspections of Iranian ships, lack the bite of the congressional measures. However, they broaden multilateral sanctions to encompass whole sectors — banking and shipping — as opposed to individuals and entities. That would lay the foundations for future sanctions that could more broadly target the regime.

“AIPAC supports this decision and endorses Chairmen Dodd and Berman’s firm, public commitment to get tough, comprehensive Iran sanctions legislation on the President’s desk before the July 4th recess,” the lobby said in a statement. “We urge President Obama to sign and implement that legislation immediately upon its arrival on his desk.”

AIPAC was assuaged in part by plans to insert language in other bills that would inhibit presidential waivers on existing sanctions. Recent reports have revealed that U.S. businesses that have illicitly traded with Iran have done $107 billion in business with the U.S. government. The businesses got away with the double dealing because successive presidents have not used sanctions at their disposal since Congress passed sweeping legislation in 1996.

House appropriators announced Tuesday that they would attach language to a supplemental appropriations bill that would require contractors to certify that they are not doing business with Iran. The sanctions would still be subject to a presidential waiver, but on a case-by-case basis, and on condition of certification to Congress that the waiver was necessary for national security.

“One of the most effective things we can do to compel compliance with the Iran Sanctions Act is use the power of the purse,” said Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), who worked on the legislation with fellow appropriators Reps. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), and Ben Chandler (D-Ky.) under the supervision of Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), who chairs the foreign operations appropriations subcommittee.

Israel told JTA that he was sensitive to Defense Department concerns that some companies discovered doing business with Iran also might be providing critical aid to U.S. troops, for instance with anti-explosive device materiel.

“Then the president should tell Congress, but it shouldn’t be done in the dark, it shouldn’t be behind closed doors,” he said.

Israel called attaching the language to the supplemental appropriations bill a “shot across the bow.” He was hoping to attach it eventually to all 12 appropriations bills in Congress.

Rep. Ron Klein (D-Fla.) launched a parallel effort to attach similar language to defense authorization bills. His amendment would suspend for three years business with contractors that falsely certify that they are not doing business with Iran.

Authorization bills permit the government to carry out programs; appropriations bills fund the programs.

JTA

 
 

Inside the Beltway

The Israel advocate’s guide to politics

As tensions continue to rise in the Middle East, New Jersey’s members of the House of Representatives took action last last month to support Israel’s military superiority in the region and enforce sanctions against Iran.

Israel’s missile defense

The Appropriations Defense Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives has appropriated $217.7 million — the highest amount on record, according to Washington sources — in funding for joint U.S.-Israel missile defense programs. The appropriation — the highest on record for such projects, according to Washington sources — is $95.7 million more than the original request.

According to Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9), a member of the Appropriations Committee, the Defense Subcommittee has allocated more than $750 million in federal funds for the Arrow and David’s Sling anti-missile systems since 2007.

“Chairman Norm Dicks, myself, and all the members of the Defense Subcommittee understand how important it is to be at the cutting edge of anti-missile technology, both to safeguard our own citizens and troops, but also those citizens and troops of our allies and friends, such as the people of the Jewish State of Israel,” Rothman said in a statement to this newspaper.

“Given the concern and attention that we are focusing now on every dollar we are expending on behalf of the U.S. taxpayer for all purposes, including the defense of the United States and its allies,” the statement continued, “it is a mark of the importance of these projects that they were all funded so robustly and fully by our subcommittee.”

The subcommittee has also allocated $205 million for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, which the Jewish state expects to deploy in the fall.

The Defense Subcommittee has allocated nearly $1 billion toward these three programs since 2007.

“The growing proliferation and increasing deadliness of missiles around the world pose a direct threat to the U.S. and our allies, making funding missile defense systems vitally important for America’s national security,” said Rothman.

Sanctioning Iran

Rep. Scott Garrett (R-5) last week wrote to President Obama urging him to withdraw the United States from the U.N. Human Rights Council because of the council’s anti-Israel bias and poor record.

Garrett put his pen to work again later in the week and fired off another letter to Obama and another to Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), chair of the House’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, urging follow-up action on Iranian sanctions recently passed in Congress.

The July 28 letter to Obama, who signed the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 in early July, requested a response from the president with a list of actions taken to implement the sanctions. The letter was signed by 38 Republican members of the House. The July 29 letter to Berman thanked the representative for his tough words on Iran but included a similar demand to know what action Berman would take. That letter was signed by 15 members of the House.

“Time is of the essence when you are dealing with a rogue state that poses a clear and present danger not just to the United States, but to our close ally Israel,” Garrett said in a statement to the Standard. “I want to ensure there is adequate oversight and robust accountability of the Obama administration’s efforts to implement the Iran sanctions legislation.”

A look at Lockerbie

The Senate Appropriations Committee last week approved a FY 2011 State and Foreign Operations funding measure from Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) that would require a State Department report on the early release of Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi. The amendment requires the secretary of state to submit a report within 180 days of the legislation that describes the circumstances that led to al-Megrahi’s release.

Scottish authorities released al-Megrahi from his life sentence last year after doctors diagnosed him with cancer and estimated he had only a few months to live. He has exceeded that initial estimate, which has led to questions of the Scottish and British governments and BP as to whether a deal was made to free al-Megrahi in exchange for access to Libyan oil.

“A formal State Department review will help provide answers to the many troubling questions surrounding the early release of the Lockerbie bomber,” Lautenberg said in a statement. “Nearly a year after his release, al-Megrahi remains alive while the authorities responsible for his freedom continue to point fingers and dodge questions. We must continue our rigorous investigation of this travesty to learn the truth and send a message that terrorists do not deserve any compassion.”

A Senate hearing to examine the circumstances surrounding al-Megrahi’s release had been scheduled for last week but was postponed.

 
 
 
Page 1 of 1 pages
 
 
S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31