Friday, January 24, 2014

143.4 - Update: Iran

Update: Iran

The other update relates to something else I'm revisiting because of the importance. The update is that the first stage of the agreement between Iran and six bullying - excuse me, major - powers about Iran's nuclear program has gone into effect. Iran has halted its most sensitive nuclear operations while the US and the European Union suspended some sanctions they had imposed on the Middle East nation.

This is supposed to be followed by a long-term agreement within six months, although negotiators have given it up to a year to be completed.

Everyone agrees the bargaining will be hard and a mutually-agreeable pact hard to come by, and not only because of the complication of national pride which will inevitably come up: Bear in mind that any agreement will by definition involve Iran submitting to letting other nations determine its policy on a national issue. What would be the reaction here if the roles were reversed and the US was being forced to let a group of six other nations determine its energy policy?

But beyond that, it bears repeating that there are two major roadblocks to a long-term agreement. The first is Israel, which has called the interim pact an "historic mistake" and has repeatedly threatened to attack Iran over its nuclear program and which has for more than 20 years claimed that Iran is no more than five years away from developing nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, Israel itself is believed to have a nuclear arsenal of up to about 200 nuclear weapons, just slightly fewer than the UK, France, or China, a fact which the West, screaming about a purely hypothetical and entirely unproven future Iranian nuclear weapon, persistently refuses to address.

The other, related, roadblock is a bizarre legislative coalition of right-wing fruitcakes and liberal cowards in the US Senate, a coalition which seems determined to pass a bill the would undermine the negotiations with Iran by imposing additional demands and the threat of additional sanctions - that is, moving the goalposts. It's related because the coalition is based on a commitment to Israel - on the right because of some fundamentalist notion that Israel has to exist so that the conversion of the Jews can happen and usher in the Second Coming and among the liberals because they are terrified of the idea of crossing the rabidly pro-Israel lobby AIPAC and so losing both votes and contributions from the Jewish community and being labeled anti-Semitic, the fate of most everyone who dares criticize Israeli policies.

I said it before, I will say it again: Those people in Congress who support this bill are saying that they do not want a settlement. They do not want peace. They may not want outright war - although I believe some do - but they do want to maintain the constant shadow of war, the better to advance their own personal agendas. Last week I called this bill an outrage. It still is.

Which is why I feel so good about being able to say that there is good news on this. Ten Democrat committee chairs have come out against the bill along with several other Democrats, including, most recently, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and, I'm pleased to say, Elizabeth Warren. The top leadership is divided, with Chuck Schumer in favor of the bill and Harry Reid and (reportedly) Dick Durbin against it.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today have all come out against new sanctions, as have influential commentators such as Ron Fournier, James Fallows, and Jeffrey Goldberg, who is usually a strident supporter of Israel.

The overall result is that, according to columnist Greg Sargent of the Washington Post, if current conditions remain, a vote is starting to look less and less likely. Outright defeat would be even better, but I'll take a no vote.

As a quick footnote, among those who has been silent on the bill but who in the past could be as rabidly pro-Israel as anyone else, is our own Ed Markey.


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