White House Ups Ante on Sanctions Bill As More Republicans Sign On

by Jim Lobe

As an update to the post I wrote Thursday, it appears the White House is toughening its rhetoric against the Kirk-Menendez Wag the Dog Act, as more Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors. There are now a total of 59 co-sponsors, including 43 of the 45 Republicans (Sens. Jeff Flake and Ron Paul are the hold-outs), and 16 of 55 Democrats and Independents. These latest developments come amidst word from Geneva that an agreement on the implementation of the Nov. 24 accord between Iran and the P5+1 could be announced this weekend.

The White House issued its strongest statement to date Friday via a statement provided by National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan to the Huffington Post:

This bill is in direct contradiction to the Administration’s work to peacefully resolve the international community’s concerns with Iran’s nuclear program. We know that this proposed legislation would divide the international community, drive the Iranians to take a harder line, and possibly end negotiations. This bill would have a negative bearing on the sanctions regime too. Let us not forget: sanctions work because we convinced our partners to take the steps that we seek. If our partners no longer believe that we are serious about finding a negotiated solution, then our sanctions regime would suffer.

If Congress passes this bill, it will be proactively taking an action that will make diplomacy less likely to succeed. The American people have been clear that they prefer a peaceful resolution to this issue. If certain members of Congress want the United States to take military action, they should be up front with the American public and say so. Otherwise, it’s not clear why any member of Congress would support a bill that possibly closes the door on diplomacy and makes it more likely that the United States will have to choose between military options or allowing Iran’s nuclear program to proceed [Emphasis added].

The President has been clear that he has a responsibility to fully test whether we can achieve a comprehensive solution through diplomatic means, before he pursues alternatives. Passing new sanctions legislation right now will undermine our efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution.

The question now is whether the White House can hold nervous Democrats, particularly Majority Leader Harry Reid who controls the calendar for floor votes, in line. As I suggested yesterday, the fact that the co-sponsorship has become so heavily and conspicuously Republican — and is now, thanks to the Foreign Policy Initiative (AKA the Project for the New American Century) so closely associated with neoconservatives and other Iraq war advocates — could make that work easier. That may be one reason why anonymous Hill staffers linked to AIPAC are claiming to CNN and other outlets that the lobby group has rounded up 77 commitments to vote for the bill if it comes to the floor, making it immune to a promised White House veto if Reid lets it come to a vote.

The stakes involved were made manifest by an extraordinary statement to JTA’s Ron Kampeas by the head of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC), which yesterday issued a much more ambiguous statement on the pending bill. Rabbi Jack Moline charged that AIPAC and the American Jewish Committee were using “strong-arm tactics, essentially threatening people that if they don’t vote a particular way, that somehow that makes them anti-Israel or means the abandonment of the Jewish community.” The NJDC ordinarily follow AIPAC’s line without question, so for its executive director to make such a charge publicly underlines the degree to which the current fight over the Kirk-Menendez bill could have huge political ramifications, especially for AIPAC, the two parties, and the U.S. Jewish community. For an interesting take on this, please see this op-ed by Lara Friedman, the very savvy director of Policy and Government Relations at Americans for Peace now.

And, with respect to those “strong-arm tactics,” it’s also worth remembering that Menendez and Kirk were the biggest Senate beneficiaries of “pro-Israel PAC” campaign cash in their 2010 and 2012 election races, respectively, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. If you don’t believe money — and the threat of withholding it — is playing a role in the calculations of members of “the world’s greatest deliberative body,” you need to reconsider.

Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.



  1. Very informative post. This issue needs to have a much higher profile with those of us who would like to avoid another war. One correction: it is Rand Paul, not his father Ron, that remains off the co-sponsor list,

  2. Is this what it’s coming down to, the foreign government of Israel running the U.S.Government, putting American lives on the line again, all over 30 pieces of silver? Overextending the country because of a paranoid war monger isn’t O.K. with the American public. But considering that Congress sold out the American public during the past, they believe they are immune to standing up and doing the right thing.

    Getting this piece in wider circulation so that everyday America can see where these corrupt congress idiots are taking the U.S. into, needs to be done by everyone who believes in the diplomacy that’s being conducted by the “O” group.

  3. Those Afghan poppy fields must be protected, at all costs.

    We can’t have Wall Street banks losing hundreds of billions a year in opium profits!

  4. “If certain members of Congress want the United States to take military action, ”
    Then certain members of Congress should be fitted for UNIFORMS and start practicing their MARKSMANSHIP as they should be sent to the Front Lines of any conflict ……. NO if-ands-or-BUTTS
    The more they squeal the better the news footage.

  5. The anti-Imperialism/colonialism thinkers of the 20th century especially Gana’s president Kwame Nkrumah who coined the term ‘Neo-Colonialism’ half a century ago, could have never envisaged a ‘small’ ‘less developed’ country like Israel with different language and religion to be able to deploy such an unprecedented ‘strategy’ to dominate the world’s most ‘developed’ Imperialism and exploit it financially ‘everyday’ and dominate its Congress and its Presidents for over half a century, while using its resources to build its own colony elsewhere.

    Students of political science would find this ‘phenomenon’ amazing – the domination, as academic studies have maintained, initially began by the dissemination and skillful exploitation of the images of the victims and survivors of the Holocaust through the American media, films and the Holocaust/Genocide museums in America while penetrating deep into the country’s main financial sectors, media and political arena and labeling its critics Anti-Semite in order to silence any opposition to its domination of the American psyche.

    Americans can never liberate themselves from the yoke of their neo-colonist little master, because America now is like an infected body, infected by a bacteria that mutates and inhabits the whole body; Americans have woken to the fact that those who represent the neo-colonizer are now influential members of the Americans society – yes, the bacteria has become part of the organ and this is the Neo-Colonialism par excellence!

    G.W.F. Hegel with his brilliant Master-Slave analysis would be astonished to see such reversal of his theory.

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