In the to and fro on the AIPAC sanctions bill, it’s easy to get lost about how precisely the law would immediately kill the negotiations. Edward Levine has a terrific primer on why that would happen, citing various, specific parts of the law:
Section 301(a)(2)(I) requires the President to certify, in order to suspend application of the new sanctions, that “Iran has not conducted any tests for ballistic missiles with a range exceeding 500 kilometers.” While this objective may be consistent with a UN Security Council resolution, it moves the goalposts by making the new sanctions contingent not just on Iran’s nuclear activities, but also on its missile programs. This paragraph also does not specify a time period (although the requirement in section 301(a)(1) for a certification every 30 days might imply one), so Iran’s past missile tests beyond 500 km might make it impossible for the President ever to make this certification.
Which is the point. Or take this provision:
Section 301(a)(4) reimposes previously suspended sanctions if the President does not make the required certifications. This paragraph applies not only to the sanctions mandated by this bill, but also to “[a]ny sanctions deferred, waived, or otherwise suspended by the President pursuant to the Joint Plan of Action or any agreement to implement the Joint Plan of Action.” Thus, it moves the goalposts even for the modest sanctions relief that the United States is currently providing to Iran.
Or this one:
Section 301(b) allows the President to suspend the bill’s sanctions annually after a final agreement is reached with Iran, but only if a resolution of disapproval of the agreement is not enacted pursuant to section 301(c). The primary effect of this insertion of Congress into the negotiating process will be to cast doubt upon the ability of the United States to implement any agreement that the E3+3 reaches with Iran. The provision is also unnecessary, as most of the sanctions relief that would be sought in a final agreement would require statutory changes anyway.
This stuff is hauling out old agendas and side-issues to ensure that Iran’s government cannot even begin to agree to a final deal. I’d take Levine’s analysis seriously if I were another Democrat sabotaging their own president, and all the major world powers:
If these requirements are enacted, all parties to the negotiations will interpret them as barring the United States from implementing the sanctions relief proposed in any feasible agreement. Rather than buttressing the U.S. position in the negotiations, therefore, they will bring an end to those negotiations. Worse yet, they will create large fissures in the E3+3 coalition that has imposed international sanctions on Iran. Thus, even though the bill purports to support sanctions, it may well result in the collapse of many of them.
It is in that context that one should read the sense of Congress, in section 2(b)(5) of the bill, that if Israel is compelled to take military action against Iran’s nuclear weapon program, the United States should provide “military support” to Israel. While such support could be limited to intelligence and arms sales, there would be great pressure for the United States to take a more active military role. So this bill, by its many steps to close the window for diplomacy with Iran, could end the international sanctions regime and lead either to a nuclear-armed Iran or to a war in which U.S. armed forces might well be active participants.
It’s hard to believe that that’s what Michael Bennet or Cory Booker want to happen. And it’s something the president has been working to avoid for the past five years.
(Photo of Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer and Cory Booker by Getty Images.)