A majority of Senate Democrats are refusing to say where they stand on a bipartisan Iran sanctions bill that experts warn risks a catastrophic war with Iran.(Photo: peppergrasss/cc/flickr)
According to the latest count, sixteen Democrat senators have come out in support of the Iran Nuclear Weapon Free Act of 2013 (S. 1881), which would advance further sanctions on Iran and impose near-impossible conditions on a final agreement.
The bill violates an interim agreement reached in late November in Geneva that the U.S. will “refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions” during the six-month period the agreement is in effect, and critics charge it amounts to a call for war.
Most Senate Democrats have remained silent on the legislation that was introduced by Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). The bill is strongly backed by the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee and is opposed by the Obama administration.
Many media outlets are emphasizing that Senate support for the bill is creeping towards a veto-proof majority, due to support from the GOP and the sixteen Democrats.
Yet some U.S./Iran policy experts suggest that this media frame advances the pro-sanctions narrative by misrepresenting a veto-proof majority as a sure path to the bill’s passage.
“The idea of a veto-proof majority is an AIPAC frame,” said Robert Naiman, policy director for Just Foreign Policy, in an interview with Common Dreams, explaining that AIPAC is seeking to shift the debate by making it look like they are close to victory. “Actually, there is no technical reason that a veto-proof majority means anything. The battle is whether this bill will be introduced at all. The urgency is all about where Democrats will fall.”
“The focus on a veto-proof majority is an attempt to scare people into signing on,” agreed Jamal Abdi, policy director for the National Iranian American Council, in an interview with Common Dreams.
According to established Senate precedent, the party in power–currently the Democrats–will not bring the bill to a vote unless it has majority support. Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid is currently blocking the vote on S.1881.
Meanwhile, a rift in the Democratic party appears to be deepening. Last week, Bernadette Meehan, National Security Council spokeswoman, urged Democratic backers of the bill to admit their support is tantamount to a call for for war. “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,” she stated. “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.”
Also last week, Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI)–who Jim Lobe of Inter Press Service refers to as “the neocons who brought you the Iraq war“–issued an open letter urging congressional leaders to line up behind the bill.
Opponents to war with Iran say now is a critical time to contact Senators–especially Democrats–and urge them to take a stand against the bill.
“If the bill passes and goes into law, I think this will be read not just by Iran but also the U.S.’s partners, as violation of the interim agreement,” said Abdi. “It’s going to convey to the world that the U.S. actually dropped the ball on diplomacy. That will render the diplomatic process terminated.”
He added, “Any way you slice it, this bill undermines peaceful resolution and makes any peaceful resolution of nuclear standoff impossible.”
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Source: Common Dreams