As we wrote several days ago, the House will vote on a new Iran sanctions bill this week, possibly as early as tomorrow. With nearly 400 co-sponsors of the bill, known as HR 850 -- the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act, the debate is likely to be rather one-sided and in fact a recorded roll call vote is unlikely. It is considered too non-controversial to warrant a recorded vote.
The bill has undergone some further revisions in the past days, primarily to add more aggressive and condemnatory "sense of Congress" language.
According to the most current language, the US seeks to thwart Iran's "already aggressive foreign policy" by applying yet another layer of sanctions in effort to force Iran to cease work on the nuclear weapons that the CIA and Mossad do not believe they are building!
What do US lawmakers believe the rest of the world thinks when they speak of the "aggressive" foreign policy of Iran, particularly when this map of the 50 US bases encircling Iran is readily available to viewers?
At a time when Congress just voted to continue the massive NSA spying program on Americans not suspected of a crime, this new Iran sanctions bill states that it is official US policy to "support freedom, human rights, civil liberties, and the rule of law in Iran..."
Likewise, as prominent US Congress Members openly call for the prosecution of American journalists who report the findings of whistleblowers, this bill decries the lack of press freedom in Iran.
Asserting that the "Department of State should encourage the free flow of information in Iran to counter the Government of Iran’s repression of its own people," the bill will authorize more covert and overt US destabilization efforts in Iran. These will include "promot(ing) the availability of certain consumer communication technologies to Iranian civil society and the Iranian people." Translation: let's give them Facebook and Twitter!
This effort may backfire on a number of fronts, however. The Chinese government and others have very reluctantly gone along with restrictions on the amount of oil they can purchase from Iran. The costs of crossing the US were deemed higher than the additional costs of more expensive oil. However, should this sanctions bill succeed in further restricting the amount of oil that is exempt from these restrictions, many countries facing growing energy needs may begin to make a different assessment of costs versus benefits. Once that happens, the sanctions house of cards comes crashing down.
This bill is extremely significant, as it is the first major piece of legislation on Iran since the surprise presidential victory of the moderate Hassan Rouhani. As commentator Patrick Buchanan points out today:
Hasan Rouhani was elected with 51 percent of the vote by the constituency that voted against Ahmadinejad in 2009. His triumph was due to his endorsement by former presidents Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami. Both had been kept off the ballot by Ayatollah Khamenei.Congress makes it clear that its demands for a more moderate figure to lead Iran under the previous president were in fact quite mendacious to say the least. Given the moderate they claimed to be hoping for, Congress doubles down on the sanctions regime.
Rouhani is a founding father of the Islamic Republic and was a close ally of Ayatollah Khomeini. But he was elected on a pledge to revive the economy, get sanctions lifted, and re-engage with the West.
Leaked Republican official talking points about this sanctions bill should elicit gasps from any follower of Middle East and Near Asia affairs not of the neoconservative persuasion. They start with a whopper: "Iran's march to nuclear weapons continues, making it the gravest threat facing the US and its allies."
The entire US Intelligence Community is wrong. The Mossad is wrong. Everyone but the neocons is wrong. Iran is only "three to five years" from a bomb, as Netanyahu warned -- in 1992!
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