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“Jaw jaw is better than war war!” – Sir Winston Churchill and the Iran Sanctions Bill

by Rabbi John Rosove

January 9, 2014 | 6:49 am

Most Israelis, Americans and international observers recognize that Iran’s nuclear weapons program is an existential threat to Israel and the western world. The question is what to do and not do in the midst of current negotiations between Iran and P5 +1?

I believe we should NOT support S. 1881 – The Menendez-Kirk Iran Sanctions Bill which would impose new stringent sanctions on Iran and entities that do business with it if Iran fails to meet certain conditions in current negotiations over its nuclear program.

J Street, a pro-Israel and pro-peace American political organization, supports the Obama Administration’s current strategy in negotiations, as do I. What follows is J Street’s arguments explaining why S.1881 would either encourage a nuclear armed Iran, war or both.

The following is excerpted from a J Street memo.

“President Obama’s administration, the US intelligence community and numerous security experts believe that enactment of this bill would likely derail current negotiations, foreclosing the possibility of a diplomatic resolution to concerns over Iran’s nuclear program. The legislation of new sanctions would be seen by Iran and some of our P5+1 partners as a bad-faith act violating the spirit of the first –step understandings agreed in November, and empower Iranian hardliners seeking to undermine President Rouhani, restricting his ability to agree to necessary concessions.

If it led to the collapse of talks, enactment of the bill would also ensure that the international community placed the blame for such failure squarely on the United States, leading to the likely defection of several of Iran’s large trading partners (i.e. China, Russia, India) from the US-led multilateral sanctions regime. In other words, the bill could result in significantly REDUCED economic pressure on Iran.

The bill places an essentially impossible condition on any final agreement: that Iran abandon all uranium enrichment, even for verifiably civilian purposes at levels far below weapons-grade. Conditioning the avoidance of new sanctions— not to mention relief from existing sanctions-- on this outcome would also cause the likely collapse of negotiations, as Iran is extremely unlikely to agree to such terms.

The failure of diplomacy makes a nuclear-armed Iran or military engagement with Iran (or both) much more likely, which would threaten US and Israeli security, and frustrate the United States’ ability to advance the critical Israeli-Palestinian talks now underway.

Thirty-four Senators need to vote “No” in order to ensure that there is override-proof support for President Obama on this. He has promised to veto any bill of this kind that passes through Congress because:

[1] It sets an essentially impossible condition for a final deal, namely that Iran renounce even a peaceful nuclear program with intrusive international inspection.

[2] Its passage would be very likely to immediately derail the current diplomatic process.

[3] Enacting a bill that all but ensures the collapse of talks would likely lead other countries to break from the US-lead multilateral sanctions effort, and significantly REDUCE economic pressure on Iran.

Legislating sanctions now is an unnecessary risk, especially given that there is no question that Congress would be ready to pass new sanctions immediately should Iran violate the "first step" agreement or fail to come to terms on a permanent agreement.

I ask you to contact your senators and express your opposition to S. 1881.

Senators who have not taken a position on the bill (39):
Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
Max Baucus (D-MT)
Michael Bennett (D-CO)
Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Richard Burr (R-NC)
Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Thad Cochran (R-MS)
Michael Crapo (R-ID)
Dick Durbin (D-IL)
Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
Al Franken (D-MN)
Martin Heinrich (D-NM)
Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
Dean Heller (D-NV)
Mazie Hirono (D-HI)
Tim Kaine (D-VA)
Angus King (D-ME)
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Ed Markey (D-MA)
Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Chris Murphy (D-CT)
Patty Murray (D-WA)
Bill Nelson (D-FL)
Rand Paul (R-KY)
Jack Reed (D-RI)
Harry Reid (D-NV)
Bernie Sanders (D-VT)
Brian Schatz (D-HI)
Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
Richard Shelby (R-AL)
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Jon Tester (D-MT)
Mark Udall (D-CO)
Tom Udall (D-NM)
Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

Senators who wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in opposition to moving such a bill (10):
Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Tom Carper (D-DE)
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Tom Harkin (D-IA)

Tim Johnson (D-SD)

Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

Carl Levin (D-MI)

Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)

John Rockefeller (D-WV)

Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Cosponsors of the Bill (51):
Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Kelley Ayotte (R-NH)
John Barrasso (R-WY)
Mark Begich (D-AK)
Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
Roy Blunt (R-MO)
Cory Booker (D-NJ)
John Boozman (R-AR)
Ben Cardin (D-MD)
Bob Casey (D-PA)
Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
Dan Coats (R-IN)
Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Susan Collins (R-ME)
Chris Coons (D-DE)
Bob Corker (R-TN)
John Cornyn (R-TX)
Ted Cruz (R-TX)
Joe Donnelly (D-IN)
Michael Enzi (R-WY)
Deb Fischer (R-NE)
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Charles Grassley (R-IA)
Kay Hagan (D-NC)
Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
John Hoeven (R-ND)
Jim Inhofe (R-OK)
Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
Mike Johanns (R-NE)
Ron Johnson (R-WI)
Mark Kirk (R-IL)
Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
Mike Lee (R-UT)
Joe Manchin (D-WV)
John McCain (R-AZ)
Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
Jerry Moran (R-KS)
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
Rob Portman (R-OH)
Mark Pryor (D-AR)
James Risch (R-ID)
Pat Roberts (R-KS)
Marco Rubio (R-FL)
Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
Tim Scott (R-SC)
John Thune (R-SD)
Pat Toomey (R-PA)
David Vitter (R-LA)
Mark Warner (D-VA)
Roger Wicker (R-MS)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Rabbi John L. Rosove assumed his duties as Senior Rabbi of Temple Israel of Hollywood in November 1988. A native of Los Angeles, he earned a BA in Art History from UC Berkeley...

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