Saturday, September 27, 2008

Berman on Passage of Iran Sanctions

After passing H.R. 7112, the "Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act of 2008" on September 26, 2008, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman and the bill's sponsor, released the following remarks:

"Mr. Speaker, preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power to me is one of the great national security challenges of our age. A nuclear-armed, fundamentalist Iran would become the dominant power in its region. The global nonproliferation regime would crumble; already today we know that many of Iran's neighbors are contemplating their own nuclear programs - and can anyone be sure that Iran, with a leader who speaks like he speaks now, would not resort to either the use of nuclear weapons or to the hand-off of those weapons to terrorist organizations?

"The sanctions that the United States and the international community thus far have placed on Iran have squeezed Iran's economy somewhat perhaps, but clearly not enough significantly to slow down its nuclear program. The present strategy is not working. I'm disappointed, and I
believe that the Iranian regime is surely heartened -- by the failure of urgency the Administration's to produce the kind of results we need regarding Iran's nuclear program. We need to make our foreign-policy priorities clear, and Iran must be at the very top of the agenda in our dealings with other countries. Sanctions will never work unless we have buy-in and support from other key countries. And if the process of achieving that buy-in requires us to engage directly with Iran, that is certainly something we should do.

"Two months ago, the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council and Germany offered Iran all kinds of generous incentives to persuade it to suspend its uranium enrichment program. Just for the sake of initiating further talks on this package, they offered what they called a "freeze-for-freeze" -we will agree not to pursue further sanctions for six weeks, Iran agrees not to increase the number of its centrifuges for six weeks. But these offers weren't good enough for Iran, which responded only with a non-committal letter.

"If Iran won't change its behavior as a result of the sanctions the international community has already imposed, and if it won't change its behavior as a result of the generous incentives package offered in Geneva, we should be pursuing tougher and more meaningful sanctions.

"The legislation before us won't put an end to Iran's nuclear program, but it may help to slow it down. Moreover, it will send a strong signal to Tehran that the U.S. Congress views this matter with urgency. And it will send a message to companies and countries that invest or consider
investing in Iran's energy sector.

"This bill before us contains somewhat a diluted version of two measures put together in the other body that had previously passed by the House by votes of 397 to 16 and 408 to 6.

"This legislation would codify and expand export and import bans on goods to and from Iran. It would freeze assets in the U.S. held by Iranians closely tied to the regime.

"It would render sanctionable a U.S. parent company if that parent company uses a foreign subsidiary to circumvent sanctions. It expands the Iran Sanctions Act to cover not only oil and all natural gas but related industries. It authorizes state and local governments in the United States to divest from any company that invests $20 million or more in Iran's energy sector. It increases U.S. export controls on countries that are directly involved in trans-shipment or illegal
diversion of sensitive technologies to Iran. And it requires the Administration to report all foreign investments of $20 million or more made in Iran's energy sector - action which they have not done, notwithstanding the existing law -- and to determine whether each such investment qualifies as sanctionable.

"Since 1996, the Executive Branch has never implemented the sanctions in the Iran Sanctions Act, even though well over a dozen sanctionable investment deals have since been concluded with Iran by international companies. The Administration hasn't even made a determination as to whether any of the investors are sanctionable. This bill will close that loophole.

"The legislation before us also reaffirms our nation's commitment to multilateral diplomacy to increase pressure on Iran to give up its nuclear weapons program, and it explicitly states that nothing in this Act authorizes the use of force.

"Based on previous votes, this body is committed to ending Iran's illicit nuclear program by taking measures that are peaceful but meaningful. I believe this legislation is a useful step toward that end."

Friday, September 26, 2008

House Passes Sanctions Bill

Just before the Presidential debate last night, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 7112, the "Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act of 2008" by voice vote on motion to suspend the rules. The bill will "impose sanctions with respect to Iran, to provide for the divestment of assets in Iran by State and local governments and other entities, and to identify locations of concern with respect to transshipment, reexportation, or diversion of certain sensitive items to Iran." H.R. 7112 is the House version of S. 3445, the Dodd-Shelby sanctions bill, and was introduced into the House by Representative Howard Berman, along with 11 other co-sponsors. As I predicted over two weeks ago, H.Con.Res. 362/S.Res. 580 became a mute issue this Congressional session and the Dodd-Shelby sanctions bill came to the forefront with ease and little opposition in the House.

It remains to be seen what will happen in the Senate. According to CQ Today, it is not expected to see floor action in the Senate. The Bush administration has opposed the bill, as have foreign countries (primarily European allies) who see the bill as extraterritorial application of U.S. law. A group of business coalitions - including, Business Roundtable, Coalition for Employment Through Exports, Emergency Committee for American Trade, National Association of Manufacturers, National Foreign Trade Council, National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce, Organization for International Investment, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and USA*Engage - and Americans for Peace Now also oppose the bill.

What Kissinger Really Said About Diplomacy with Iran

KISSINGER: Well, I am in favor of negotiating with Iran. And one utility of negotiation is to put before Iran our vision of a Middle East, of a stable Middle East, and our notion on nuclear proliferation at a high enough level so that they have to study it. And, therefore, I actually have preferred doing it at the secretary of state level so that we -- we know we're dealing with authentic...


SESNO: Put at a very high level right out of the box?

KISSINGER: Initially, yes. And I always believed that the best way to begin a negotiation is to tell the other side exactly what you have in mind and what you are -- what the outcome is that you're trying to achieve so that they have something that they can react to.

Now, the permanent members of the Security Council, plus Japan and Germany, have all said nuclear weapons in Iran are unacceptable. They've never explained what they mean by this. So if we go into a negotiation, we ought to have a clear understanding of what is it we're trying to prevent. What is it going to do if we can't achieve what we're talking about?

But I do not believe that we can make conditions for the opening of negotiations. We ought, however, to be very clear about the content of negotiations and work it out with other countries and with our own government.

Iran Has a Republican Guard?

If you watched the Presidential debate tonight, one might think so. John McCain spoke about Iran's "Republican Guard" and brought up the Kyl-Lieberman amendment from 2007 to label the Republican Guard a terrorist organizaiton. Barack Obama took a cue from McCain and continued the discussion regarding the "Republican Guard." Someone needs to tell them the Republican Guard was Saddam's military. Iran has the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Berman Sanctions Legislation

Here is Representative Howard Berman's (D-CA) sanctions legislation listed as item five on the House Suspension Calendar for September 26, 2008. The bill is the House version of the Dodd-Shelby "Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2008."

Palin on Iran

Below is an excerpt of the transcript from Katie Couric's day two interview with Sarah Palin, which includes more comments from Palin on Iran.

Couric: You met yesterday with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who is for direct diplomacy with both Iran and Syria. Do you believe the U.S. should negotiate with leaders like President Assad and Ahmadinejad?

Palin: I think, with Ahmadinejad, personally, he is not one to negotiate with. You can't just sit down with him with no preconditions being met. Barack Obama is so off-base in his proclamation that he would meet with some of these leaders around our world who would seek to destroy America and that, and without preconditions being met. That's beyond naïve. And it's beyond bad judgment.

Couric: Are you saying Henry Kissinger..

Palin: It's dangerous.

Couric: is naïve for supporting that?

Palin: I've never heard Henry Kissinger say, "Yeah, I'll meet with these leaders without preconditions being met." Diplomacy is about doing a lot of background work first and shoring up allies and positions and figuring out what sanctions perhaps could be implemented if things weren't gonna go right. That's part of diplomacy.

Couric: You recently said three times that you would never, quote, "second guess" Israel if that country decided to attack Iran. Why not?

Palin: We shouldn't second guess Israel's security efforts because we cannot ever afford to send a message that we would allow a second Holocaust, for one. Israel has got to have the opportunity and the ability to protect itself. They are our closest ally in the Mideast. We need them. They need us. And we shouldn't second guess their efforts.

Couric: You don't think the United States is within its rights to express its position to Israel? And if that means second-guessing or discussing an option?

Palin: No, we need to express our rights and our concerns and…

Couric: But you said never second guess them.

Palin: We don't have to second-guess what their efforts would be if they believe that it is in their country and their allies, including us, all of our best interests to fight against a regime, especially Iran, who would seek to wipe them off the face of the earth. It is obvious to me who the good guys are in this one and who the bad guys are. The bad guys are the ones who say Israel is a stinking corpse and should be wiped off the face of the earth. That's not a good guy who is saying that. Now, one who would seek to protect the good guys in this, the leaders of Israel and her friends, her allies, including the United States, in my world, those are the good guys.

Berman Dear Colleague on Iran Sanctions Bill

Support the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act of 2008
From: The Committee on Foreign Affairs
Date: 9/26/2008
September 26, 2008

Support the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act of 2008

Dear Colleague:

Later today, the House will consider the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act of 2008 under suspension of the rules. I urge you to join me in supporting this important measure.

The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act will significantly strengthen our nation's peaceful efforts to counter Iran's illicit nuclear weapons program. The legislation contains versions of two measures that have previously passed the House: HR 1400, the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act, which was approved by the House on September 25, 2007, by a vote of 397-16, and H.R. 2347, the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act, which was passed on July 31, 2007, by a vote of 408-6. This bill will help strengthen the hands of the United States by leading efforts to ensure that if Iran does not end its quest to obtain nuclear weapons and its support for international terrorism, Iran will face meaningful economic measures.

The legislation will undercut Iran's nuclear program and support for terrorism by:
-Codifying and expanding export and import bans on goods to and from Iran;
Freezing assets in the U.S. held by Iranians closely tied to the regime;
-Making a U.S. parent company liable for the violation of U.S. Iran sanctions if the parent company uses a foreign subsidiary to circumvent sanctions;
- Increasing the ability of the Treasury Department to combat terrorist financing;
- Authorizing state and local governments to divest from any company that invests $20 million or more in Iran's energy sector or extending this amount of credit; and
- Increasing U.S. export controls on countries that are directly involved in trans-shipment or illegal diversion of sensitive technologies to Iran.
- Requiring the Administration to report all foreign investments of $20 million or more made in Iran's energy sector and to determine whether each such investment qualifies as sanctionable under the Iran Sanctions Act.

The legislation reaffirms our nation's commitment to multilateral diplomacy to increase pressure on Iran to give up its nuclear weapons program, and explicitly states that nothing in the Act authorizes the use of force against Iran. I have attached a summary of the bill.

Please contact David Beraka at to cosponsor this legislation.

I urge you to support this important measure.


Sanctions Suspense

The Dodd-Shelby Iran Sanctions bill is on the House Suspension Calendar as item number five for today, Friday, September 26, 2008. The bill was initially put on the Calendar yesterday, but the House did not have time to debate it. Representative Howard Berman (D-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and other supporters of the nuclear cooperation agreement between the U.S. and India, added a version of the Dodd-Shelby Iran sanctions and divestment bill (House bill text still not available) in order to garner more support to pass the India nuclear cooperation agreement approval. Hill sources initially said that Representative Berman planned to combine the Iran sanctions and India nuclear cooperation approval bills, but according to CQ Today, he will no longer do so after being pressed by the Bush administration to keep the issues separate.

The move is largely reminiscent of Santorum’s Last Stand. Some INW readers may recall a similar midnight hour effort (literally) to pass an Iran sanctions bill on September 30, 2006 before the mid-term elections. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) was able to spearhead a movement to pass the Iran Sanctions Act to give him one last legislative victory before facing off in a tough race against now Senator Bob Casey (D-PA). The difference between then and now is that the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) was about to expire and Congress had to do something to renew sanctions against Iran before they legally lapsed. The sanctions bill then was largely an extension of the 1996 ILSA, however, it appropriately dropped Libya sanctions.

Today’s story has a somewhat different twist. Instead of simply renewing, the bill that will likely be voted on Suspension today would impose much broader sanctions against Iran include enabling legislation for divestment efforts across the U.S. Unlike 2006, Iran sanctions are not pending lapse, yet Democrats and Republicans alike are using the Iran sanctions bill for their electioneering purposes yet again in the midnight hour before recessing to campaign. If the sanctions bill is voted on, Members of Congress will surely point to their co-sponsorship and vote as proof of being tough on Iran and tough on national security. And, Congress may be under even more pressure to do something given that the controversial H.Con.Res. 362 and S.Res. 580 are not likely to be taken up today or before the end of the legislative session.

What will happen remains to be seen. In order to become law, the Senate will also need to pass the bill and the President would then need to sign it. However, it would take just one Senator to block a unanimous consent agreement, which would be required to bring the bill up for a free-standing vote. The Dodd-Shelby sanctions bill was excluded from the Fiscal Year 2009 Defense Authorization bill, but it did have significant support in the Senate even from those like Senator John Warner (R-VA) who simply objected to its inclusion based on principle. With little time remaining, it is possible that the bill could be held up in the Senate. Hill sources said yesterday that it was conceivable that Finance Committee Chair Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) could add the combined India Nuclear Cooperation Agreement-Iran Sanctions bill to the $700 billion bailout package. However, that may be less likely now since Representative Berman has agreed to keep the measures separate and the House will vote on an India nuclear cooperation approval bill that is identical to the version already passed out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Stay tuned…

Thursday, September 25, 2008

State Department: Iran Remains Country of Particular Concern for Violations of Religious Freedom

The State Department has just released its 2008 Annual International Religious Freedom Report. According to the report, Iran remains a country of “particular concern” for its “particularly egregious violations of religious freedom.” The report lists abuses of religious freedom in Iran in the last year, including significant abuses and discrimination against the Baha’i community, but also against the Christian, Sufi, Sunni and Jewish communities.

The report notes that while the U.S. does not have direct relations with Iran, “it calls on other countries that have bilateral relations with the country to use those ties to press the Government on religious freedom and human rights matters.”

Read the full report here.

Report: Diplomacy Iran Key to Resolving U.S. Tensions with Muslim World

Search for Common Ground and Consensus Building Institute released a new report on September 24, 2008 entitled, “Changing Course: A New Direction for U.S. Relations with the Muslim World.” The report presents the consensus of the Leadership Group on U.S.-Muslim Engagement, comprised of 34 leaders including a former Secretary of State and a former Deputy Secretary of State, former members of Congress, a former U.S. envoy on the Middle East peace process, and leaders and experts from business, faith communities, foreign policy and social sciences.

As part of strategy for reversing extremism, the report recommends elevating diplomacy as a primary tool for resolving key conflicts among Muslim countries and engaging both allies and adversaries in dialogue. It specifically calls for engaging Iran “to explore the potential for agreements that could increase national security, while seeking Iran’s full compliance with its nuclear nonproliferation commitments.” (page 20)

Under a “Call for Action,” the report calls on the next President and Administration within the first three months to “initiate a major and sustained diplomatic effort to resolve regional conflicts and promote security cooperation in the Middle East, giving top priority to engagement with Iran and permanent resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” (page 22)

The report cites that the majority of the American public wants the U.S. to make greater use of diplomacy and dialogue with adversaries, including Iran. “However, there is little support for advocating democracy or increasing foreign aid.” (page 45)

The report finds that heightened tensions with Iran is among five drivers of tension between the U.S. and the Muslim world. “The U.S. confrontation with Iran has added to the widespread perception that the U.S. intends to dominate the Middle East militarily for the foreseeable future.” (page 50) It does note, however, that all Muslims in the Middle oppose the U.S. confrontation with Iran.

The report expounds on the complex and competing interests between the U.S. and Iran. While the U.S. has done much to signal to Iran it is willing to force, this approach has not succeeded in limiting Iran’s influence in the region or in undermining those in Iran who are hostile towards the U.S. The report states, “It is unlikely that the U.S. and its allies (both Muslim and Western) could do substantially more to constrain Iran’s economic or military options, or undermine its government, without resorting to force. At this point, the U.S. should expand the contacts with Iran that the Bush administration has recently initiated.” The goal of such talks should be to pursue the potential for “mutually beneficial agreements on regional security, diplomatic and economic relations.” Simultaneously, the U.S. should continue seeking international verification of Iran’s nuclear program and compliance with its obligations under the Nonproliferation Treaty (page 56).

The report goes on to state that dialogue with Iran could be particularly important for resolving the conflict in Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and gaining assistance in Afghanistan.

Americans for Peace Now and DeLee: U.S. Must Engage Iran

Debra DeLee has an Op-Ed in JTA this week in which she argues, that the United States does not have to like Iran's president to engage in real diplomacy with his country, and engaging Iran in order to safeguard vital U.S. national security interests is not appeasement. DeLee says that the American-led strategy to cajole, threaten and sanction Iran into submission hasn't stopped its nuclear program.

Americans for Peace Now also released a new statement on September 24, 2008 calling on the Presidential candidates to support diplomacy with Iran as part of its "Responsibility over Rhetoric" initiative aimed at the Obama and McCain campaigns. Below is the full statement from APN. Like the DeLee Op-Ed, the statement calls on the candidates to embrace a serious, success-oriented approach to the challenge of Iran, involving a strategy of sticks and carrots, and founded on direct, determined diplomacy with Iran.

APN to Presidential Candidates: Support Iran Diplomacy

For years Iran’s leaders have espoused virulently anti-U.S., anti-Israel positions, complemented by moral and financial support for extremists and terrorist organizations – including Hamas and Hezbollah. The rise to power of President Mahmoud Ahmedinijad – arguably the most anti-Western, anti-Israel, anti-Semitic Iranian leader in history – has heightened concerns about Iran’s intentions in the region and in the world. These concerns have grown over the past decade, as Iran has tenaciously pursued a nuclear program.

An Iran armed with nuclear weapons represents an alarming scenario that neither the U.S. nor Israel can afford to ignore, and one that the U.S. and the international community should be exerting all efforts to avoid. A nuclear-armed Iran poses a potential existential threat to Israel and is likely to trigger a nuclear arms race in the region. An unchecked rogue Iran will likely continue to use support for terrorist groups to further destabilize the region and threaten Israel and other vital U.S. interests, including in Iraq and Lebanon. Moreover, in the absence of an effective international strategy to deal with Iran, domestic pressure for Israel to take matters into its own hands will continue to grow.

Unfortunately, instead of an orchestrated international effort to engage Iran and address these very serious issues, the U.S. has worked to ensure that the world follows its lead in adopting a one-dimensional strategy toward Iran – a strategy that seeks to threaten, browbeat, and sanction Iran into submission.

This strategy has failed. It has not stopped Iran's nuclear program or Iran’s reckless meddling in the region. Perversely, it may even have had the opposite effect: Just as American politicians routinely bolster their patriotic credentials by talking tough about Iran, today Iranian hard-liners -- including Ahmadinejad -- burnish their own nationalist credentials with pledges to stand up to American “bullying.” Indeed, such nationalist rhetoric is one of the only planks Iranian hard-liners have left to run on, given the domestic economic and social challenges facing their country. It should surprise no one that pushed into a corner, many Iranians -- including those who don't support Ahmadinejad -- have come to view the nuclear program as a symbol of national honor and pride.

And while it is true that the United States has at times offered to engage Iran in a limited manner, such engagement has been preconditioned on Iran first freezing its nuclear program. This approach – in which, as a precondition to negotiations, Iran is required to take an action that from its perspective should be the outcome of negotiations – has been unsuccessful. Preconditioning negotiations in this manner does not constitute genuine diplomacy.

Ahmadinejad is a populist rabble-rouser whose anti-American, anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric is repugnant. His country's support for terrorist groups throughout the region is abhorrent. Nobody is suggesting that America’s next President should embrace him.

But just as clearly, demonizing Ahmadinejad while constantly reminding him that "all options are on the table" does not constitute the basis for a responsible or effective Iran policy. Sanctions are indeed a potentially powerful tool for putting pressure on Iran, but they simply will not suffice as a replacement for diplomacy in resolving our differences. Clearly the option for military action is always available, but that option and even its threat must be reserved as the option of truly last resort.

Addressing the challenges posed by Iran requires a smarter strategy -- combining carrots and sticks, incentives and sanctions -- and strong U.S. direct engagement and leadership. The next U.S. President does not have to like Ahmadinejad to engage in real diplomacy with his country, and engaging Iran in order to safeguard vital U.S. national security interests is not appeasement. Rather, as the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran underscored, it is the kind of sensible and responsible foreign policy that is long overdue. A bipartisan group of five former Secretaries of State, speaking together at a September 15, 2008 forum, agrees:

Madeleine Albright (who served under President Bill Clinton): “I believe we need to engage with Iran. I think the whole point is you try to engage and deal with countries you have problems with…I think it’s one of the most important relationships that we need to work on. We are not gaining anything by this [current approach]…”

Gen. Colin Powell (who served under President George W. Bush): “…we should start to talk to them. Don’t wait for, you know, a letter coming from them. Start discussions.”

Warren Christopher (who served under President Bill Clinton): “…our relationship with Israel needs to be strong enough so we can say to them ‘Look, we want to have a comprehensive dialogue with the Iranians.’ We can’t be complacent about the nuclear possibilities in Iran, but nevertheless we cannot afford not to have a comprehensive dialogue to see if it can’t be stopped, because, frankly, the military options here are very, very poor…”

James Baker (who served under President George H.W. Bush): “We ought to engage. Yes… We’re all saying that you [the next U.S. President] ought to engage…”

Henry Kissinger (who served under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford): “…I am in favor of negotiating with Iran…”

Such a diplomatic effort will not be easy; indeed it will almost certainly be a long and arduous process. Nor is its success a foregone conclusion. But such an effort is indispensable if the United States is serious about dealing with serious challenges to U.S. foreign policy goals and to U.S. national security interests posed by Iran.

Americans for Peace Now urges the Presidential candidates to:

>>>> Enunciate a clear recognition that the current U.S. approach to Iran, consisting almost exclusively of sanctions and saber-rattling, has failed.

>>>> Embrace a serious, success-oriented approach to the challenge of Iran, involving a strategy of sticks and carrots – sanctions and meaningful incentives – and founded on direct, determined diplomacy with Iran, without preconditions.

>>>> Abandon casual rhetoric about U.S. or Israeli first-strike options, and discard the notion that the guiding policy of the U.S. must be that “all options are on the table.” Clearly, the option for military action is always available, but it must be reserved as the option of truly last resort.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

CNN Transcript with Five Former Bipartisan Secretaries of State Agreeing on Talks with Iran

CNN has posted the transcript of the forum with the five former Secretaries of State at George Washington University, which aired on September 20, 2008. During the forum, the five former Secretaries of State, both Republican and Democrat, once again agreed that the next President of the United States should engage Iran in direct talks. Below is the excerpt of the transcript that includes the discussion on Iran.

AMANPOUR: Secretary Baker, you just talked about strategically, not tactically. Let's talk about Iran, which has been a strategic and tactical headache for the United States over the last 30 years.

Let's say, in the few weeks after the inauguration of the next president, a message comes from Iran that the Iranians are ready to do a deal, all conditions on the table. Is the advice to the next American president to once again put conditions to expect Iran to cry uncle or to engage?

Secretary Albright?

ALBRIGHT: I believe we need to engage with Iran. I think the whole point is you try to engage and deal with countries that you have problems with and take the Russians (ph)... AMANPOUR: So what do you advise the president when he gets this message across his desk or it comes to the State Department that the Iranians are seeking feelers?

ALBRIGHT: You begin to look at what level to talk at. And actually, something like that happened when we were in office. And you begin to find the right level.

And I think it's one of the most important relationships that we need to work on. We are not gaining anything by this. And I -- while there are many issues, ultimately, Iran has benefited the most from the war in Iraq. And I think that we need to deal with them.

AMANPOUR: The intelligence assessment that's going to be given to the next president says that Iran, they believe, will continue to seek to enrich uranium, but at the moment they don't see evidence of building a weapon.

Can the United States, despite all that's been said up to now, can the world live with a nuclear Iran?

POWELL: The Iranians are telling us that they are developing a nuclear program and they're doing it for civilian use and for power generation.

Once you know how to do that, that 5 percent enrichment, you can scale it up to 90 percent enrichment and make a weapon.

So I agree with Madeleine, and I suspect my other colleagues, that we should start to talk to them. Don't wait for, you know, a letter coming from them. Start discussions. We were talking to them up through the middle of 2003.

AMANPOUR: So take the initiative?

POWELL: Yes. Why shouldn't we?


POWELL: We did.

BAKER: We did. In our administration, way back in '91.

POWELL: We were talking to them through 2003 at a low level. And then it was stopped. And so find a way -- and don't make it, "Let's get together and talk just about nuclear weapons or just about this or just about that." Start a dialogue at a low level and let it grow over time.

SESNO: Might the next president have to have a showdown with his Israeli allies, to tell them to hold back?

CHRISTOPHER: I must say our relationship with Israel needs to be strong enough so we can say to them, "Look, we want to have a comprehensive dialogue with the Iranians. We can't be complacent about the nuclear possibilities in Iran, but nevertheless we cannot afford not to have a comprehensive dialogue to see if it can be stopped," because, frankly, the military options here are very, very poor.

And if that's what the Israelis are advocating, I think that we have to tell them that we think their military options are very poor and we don't want to go down that route.

SESNO: So neither candidate, neither of the men who would be president has taken the military option with respect to Iran off the table?

CHRISTOPHER: I didn't say to take them off the table.


BAKER: Can I just say one -- one more thing? When I was in office, we had a standing policy with the Iranians. We were ready to talk to them, provided it would be done at an official level, at the level of the secretary of state, and they did -- they wouldn't -- they didn't have enough domestic political support for that.

Having vilified us as the Great Satan for so long, they couldn't get the domestic political support necessary to meet with us. So it wasn't the case of our -- we hadn't been isolating Iran from that standpoint. We offered to meet with them at the level of secretary of state.

And I think a well-placed, quiet, private phone call to the Iranian leadership, if you can find out which leaders to talk to, to the effect, "Look, if you do so much as aim a missile or anything else toward Israel or toward anything else, toward Israel or toward us, our strategic nuclear deterrent can be re-aimed in 20 seconds," they would understand that, I think.

AMANPOUR: I'm sure they would.


But the question is, do you want to change the policy? And do you want to actually try to engage for strategic reasons?

BAKER: We ought to engage, yes.

AMANPOUR: To use them for help in...

POWELL: I think we're all saying yes.

BAKER: We're all saying you ought to engage, I think. I don't know. I haven't heard Henry. He may not.


KISSINGER: Well, I am in favor of negotiating with Iran. And one utility of negotiation is to put before Iran our vision of a Middle East, of a stable Middle East, and our notion on nuclear proliferation at a high enough level so that they have to study it. And, therefore, I actually have preferred doing it at the secretary of state level so that we -- we know we're dealing with authentic...


SESNO: Put at a very high level right out of the box?

KISSINGER: Initially, yes. And I always believed that the best way to begin a negotiation is to tell the other side exactly what you have in mind and what you are -- what the outcome is that you're trying to achieve so that they have something that they can react to.

Now, the permanent members of the Security Council, plus Japan and Germany, have all said nuclear weapons in Iran are unacceptable. They've never explained what they mean by this. So if we go into a negotiation, we ought to have a clear understanding of what is it we're trying to prevent. What is it going to do if we can't achieve what we're talking about?

But I do not believe that we can make conditions for the opening of negotiations. We ought, however, to be very clear about the content of negotiations and work it out with other countries and with our own government.

ALBRIGHT: I think also we need to make clear that what we're doing is not counterproductive. At the moment, I think we don't understand Iranian society. It is not monolithic. There are various aspects of the fact that Ahmadinejad is not particularly popular. There are economic issues.

And the more that we go around vilifying them, we create -- put him a stronger position. And so not only should we do these steps that the others have been talking about, but we have to make sure that we're not undercutting what we want to do by creating a bigger problem than we have.

AMANPOUR: So it looks like there's possibly some different advice to the next president.

New Assessment Calls for Security Council Action on Iran

A new assessment of the most recent International Atomic Energy Agency's report on Iran released this week by the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University in Israel concludes that the two main areas for concern in the report are the "current uranium enrichment activities" and "possible military dimensions" of Iran's nuclear development program. The assessment argues that it is now up to the United Nations Security Council to decide how things will go.

The assessment states there are "three main possible future directions: strong economic and diplomatic sanctions to force Iran into serious negotiations; military action; or a nuclear Iran. The Council can and should act if it does not want the situation to further deteriorate." It recommends that the Security Council "adopt a threefold program: a) prohibit sale of any goods to Iran with the exception of food and medical supplies b) prohibit external travel of Iranian residents by not issuing entry visas to UN member states except for humanitarian or health reasons or for negotiating purposes, and c) start, with the appointment of a sub-committee or other agreed negotiators, serious ongoing negotiations with Iran on the complete cessation of nuclear fuel activities in Iran and on vital mutual security issues, including security guarantees to Iran, abandonment of Iranian assistance to terror organizations, and the establishment of normal relations with all nations."

The assessment concludes, "If the Security Council or major political blocs do not quickly agree on the strong sanctions-negotiations route, the possibility of a military action will become more realistic. If that does not happen, there will be no way to avoid the least desirable option – a nuclear weapons Iran"

Churches for Middle East Peace Statement on Iran

Churches for Middle East Peace has released a new policy statement on Iran. Below is the full statement.

CMEP Policy Statement on Iran: September, 2008

Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) calls for robust U.S. diplomacy throughout the Middle East to resolve conflicts and reduce tensions, including direct, serious and sustained negotiations with Iran. CMEP views with deep concern the possible development by Iran of a nuclear weapon and Iran's ongoing support for Hezbollah and Hamas. As a coalition representing a wide variety of American Christians, we deplore the anti-Israel statements of Iranian President Ahmadinejad.

To address the current impasse, the United States should pursue a comprehensive diplomatic strategy vis-à-vis Iran, together with international partners, that maximizes non-military options to avoid escalation and strengthens global and regional nuclear nonproliferation efforts, including bolstering support for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Such a strategy must include economic and diplomatic incentives and should recognize that, while sanctions – carefully targeted not to impact vulnerable civilians and constantly evaluated for effectiveness – are preferable to the use of force, they are not a replacement for diplomacy.

CMEP opposes any pre-emptive military action against Iran, as well as provocative rhetoric or measures that increase the threat of confrontation between the U.S. and Iran. Military conflict with Iran would likely spark a dangerous regional crisis and would further marginalize moderating forces within Iran.

The vigor of the human rights discourse and vibrancy of civil society in Iran, even under formidable pressure from authorities, is promising and can be best furthered by diplomatic openings with Iran. CMEP supports efforts to build relationships and understanding between the people of Iran and America, including promoting more people-to-people exchanges among religious leaders and civil society.

CMEP remains committed to supporting vigorous U.S. diplomacy to resolve the Israeli-Arab conflict and views diplomatic engagement with Iran as integral to fostering regional peace, security and stability.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

NPR Interview with Ahmadinejad

NPR's Steve Inskeep interviewed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during his visit to New York for the United Nations General Assembly. The interview transcript and audio are available online here.

New Report Outlines Recommendations for Next U.S. President

A new report entitled “Meeting the Challenge: U.S. Policy Toward Iranian Nuclear Development” has just been published by the National Security Initiative of the Bipartisan Security Center. The task force was co-chaired by Ambassador Daniel Coats and former Senator Charles Robb (VA). Other task force members included Ashton Carter, Admiral Gregory Johnson (U.S. Navy, Ret.), General Ronald Keys (Ret.), Dennis Ross, Henry Sokolski, and Steve Rademaker, among others. Kenneth Katzman and Micahel Rubin served as consultants to the project and Michael Rubin is credited as the primary drafter of the report.

The report concludes that a new and comprehensive diplomatic strategy, with calibrated financial and military leverage, will be the next administration’s best option. While the report says its seeks a diplomatic solution to the Iranian challenge, involving direct engagement between the U.S. and Iran, it says such engagement should only be done under the right conditions, and the U.S. should only enter diplomatic relations from a position of strength. Furthermore, if diplomacy fails, the next president might have to turn to “less optimal solutions,” including military action, if diplomacy fails within a reasonable timeframe. It says that “while a ‘grand bargain’ resolving all issues between Washington and Tehran would be an attractive outcome, the United States does not have the luxury of time given the intractability of issues and the Iranian government’s decision to accelerate its nuclear program.”

The report warns that opening dialogue with Iran without preconditions could backfire, and the U.S. should limit talks with Iran to a predetermined time period. It states, “Any formal dialogue with Iran absent suspension of enrichment could backfire: Not only would the United States implicitly void all UN Security Council resolutions demanding a cessation of Iranian uranium enrichment, but Iranian authorities are likely to interpret U.S. flexibility as acquiescence to the Iranian position that it must be permitted to enrich—all the more reason to increase multilateral sanctions as any new incentives are contemplated.”

The report also states that the “Europeans make war with Iran more likely if they do not strengthen sanctions against Iran and effectively end all commercial relations.” It calls on the next President to “clarify to the Europeans that only by standing firmly together diplomatically and ratcheting up the pressure on the Islamic Republic can we improve the chance to avoid more robust action.”

The report calls for ramping up sanctions and closing existing loopholes in current U.S. and United Nations sanctions. According to the report: “The U.S. Treasury Department’s quiet diplomacy with European banks should continue. Many European banks and companies have stepped back from operations in Iran when confronted with evidence of the Islamic Republic’s deceptive financial practices. Washington should press for expansion of sanctions upon Iran’s banking sector. Even without European acquiescence, the next occupant of the Oval Office should consider applying Section 311 of the U.S.A Patriot Act to designate additional Iranian banks up to and including Bank Markazi, the central bank, because of their involvement in deceptive financial practices. Such action would, in effect, remove Iranian banks from the international financial stage. Negotiations could commence immediately to achieve greater transparency in Iranian financial dealings.”

The report also address the possibility of using a blockade of Iranian gasoline imports if diplomacy should fail. According to the report, “Some have proposed an embargo of gasoline exports to Iran but, in practice, there are too many suppliers to enforce fully without a blockade. However, even a partially effective embargo might have a psychological impact on the Iranian people, representing a cost for the Iranian leaders. An actual blockade of Iranian gasoline imports would have a much greater impact since, despite rationing, the Islamic Republic still must import about 25 percent of its refined petroleum needs, the majority of which enters Iran through sea ports. The Iranian regime feels vulnerable about its stability and a tighter rationing of gasoline or a spike in gasoline prices would likely spark further social discontent and political upheaval.” If blockading imports should fail, the U.S. should then blockade exports, an action the report views as a final sanction before military action.

The report recommends an “information campaign” to accompany all diplomatic and sanctions efforts, calling for increases in funding for Voice of America and Radio Farda. The report cautions, It is not the place of Washington to support any political groupings outside Iran or ethnic interests inside the country. However, the next president should recognize the importance of an independent civil society and trade union movement inside Iran and encourage their growth through any appropriate means.” The report does not elaborate what those means are.

Finally, the report concludes that military action is “a feasible option and must remain a last resort to retard Iran’s nuclear development, even if it is unlikely to solve all our challenges and will certainly create new ones.” The report acknowledges risks inherent in the military option saying, “Military action against the Islamic Republic would incur significant risks, whether such action involves a limited air strike or a more sustained air and naval campaign such as the imposition of no-fly zones and a full blockade. Any military action would run the risk of significant U.S. and allied losses, rallying Iranians around an unstable and ideologically extreme regime, triggering wide-scale Hezbollah and Hamas rocket attacks against Israel, and producing unrest in a number of the Persian Gulf states. An initial air campaign would likely last several days to several weeks and target both key military and nuclear installations. It should not target civilian facilities, and might not require ground troops beyond Special Forces. While a successful bombing campaign would retard Iranian nuclear development, Iran would undoubtedly retain its nuclear knowhow. It would also require years of continued vigilance, both to strike previously undiscovered nuclear sites and to ensure that Iran does not resurrect its military nuclear program… A military strike would have to target not only Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, but also its conventional military infrastructure in order to suppress an Iranian response.”

The report concludes, “It may be too late to keep Iran from becoming a nuclear power state, but it is not too late to prevent the Islamic Republic from becoming a nuclear weapons threat.”

Download the full report here.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Iranian General Killed in Ethnic Resistance Clash

Fars News Agency is reporting that Brigadier General Mohammad Sar-Golzaie and three other Iranian security forces were killed in clash on Thursday night with the Sunni militant group Jundullah (Soldiers of God) in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan, which borders both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Jundullah claims to be fighting for Sunni rights in Iran, but it is considered a terrorist organization by both Iran and Pakistan and believed to have links to Al Qaeda.

Seymour Hersh claimed in July this year that the U.S. government has supported Jundullah as part of covert operations inside of Iran under a policy of "my enemy’s enemy is my friend." A previous report by ABC News in April 2007 said, "U.S. officials say the U.S. relationship with Jundullah is arranged so that the U.S. provides no funding to the group, which would require an official presidential order or 'finding' as well as congressional oversight. Tribal sources tell ABC News that money for Jundullah is funneled to its youthful leader, Abd el Malik Regi, through Iranian exiles who have connections with European and Gulf states."

ABC News then reported in May 2007 that Bush had authorized a "non-lethal" covert operation in Iran to destabilize the Iranian government. Seymour Hersh argued in "Preparing the Battlefield" that in late 2007 at the same time the updated National Intelligence Estimate on Iran was being released, "Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran... These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership." A Presidential Finding is highly classified but must be issued in order get covert intelligence operations underway. At a minimum, it must be made known to both the Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and the Senate, as well as to the ranking members of Intelligence committees in both chambers. Once approved, monies can be re-aportioned in appropriations bills and relevant appropriations committee members briefed. According to Hersh, both the Democratic and Republican leadership were willing, in secret, to go along with the Administration's covert operations expansion.

New House Resolution on Covert Operations

On September 18, Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced H.R. 6951, "To prohibit the use of funds by the Central Intelligence Agency or the Department of Defense to provide covert or clandestine assistance for the purpose of overthrowing the Government of Iran." The short title of the legislation has been changed to “Transparent Actions over Covert Tactics in Iran Act 0f 2008” or the “TACT in Iran Act.” The bill has six co-sponsors, including Representatives Raul Grijalva (D-NM), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), James McGovern (D-MA), Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA).

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cyber-Feminism in Iran

Lucy Morillon has an excellent article on cyber-feminism in Iran that highlights the Campaign for Equality and the role of the internet in the campaign for women's rights.

Morillon writes: "After a wave of repression in the ’80s, Iranian mothers were reticent to let their daughters contest the new order. In contrast, today many support their daughters fighting for equal rights and some older women even get involved themselves. The power of the Internet, accessible to everyone, has removed the class barrier, allowing all woman to receive and exchange information." Yet, she notes that "in recent years. women’s rights have become one of the top subjects targeted by government web censors, along with sites advocating political reform or hosting pornography."

Morillon also tells the stories of several courageous women's right activists, such as Parvin Ardalan and Amir Yaghoub Ali, a member of the Men’s Committee of the One Million Signatures Campaign. Read the full article here.

Defense Authorization Bill Eludes Iran Amendments

Yesterday, the Senate approved S.3001, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2009, by a vote of 88-8. A manager’s package of amendments was proposed and included Senator Christopher Dodd’s (D-CT) “Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act of 2008” (Amendment No. 5572), as well as several other Iran-related amendments. However, the manager’s package would have required unanimous consent to be added to the bill and some Republicans objected to earmarks in the report accompanying it. Thus, the Senate approved a version of the bill reported out of the Senate Armed Services Committee with the addition of two of four amendments debated on September 10 – one earmarking $89 million to deploy the missile defense X-band radar at a classified location; and one extending the five-year statute of limitations on contractor fraud in Iraq.

It is important, however, to note that Iran is not entirely absent in the Senate version of the FY'09 Defense Authorization bill as evidenced in the justification of two missile defense related sections in the May 12, 2008 report accompanying S. 3001:

Limitation on availability of funds for procurement, construction, and deployment of missile defenses in Europe (sec. 232)
“…They also said they would develop options for a comprehensive NATO missile defense architecture to provide coverage of the portions of NATO Europe that would not be covered by the planned U.S. deployment, in order to inform any future political decision by NATO on whether and how to provide defensive coverage for the portion of its territory that would not be protected against ballistic missiles, including from the hundreds of Iranian ballistic missiles that exist today.” (Page 136)

Arrow missile defense program
“The budget request included approximately $1.0 billion for terminal defense programs in PE 63881C, of which $74.3 million is for the U.S.-Israeli cooperative program of development and procurement for the Israeli Arrow missile defense system. The Arrow Weapon System provides Israel defense against regional ballistic missiles, including against Iran’s Shahab–3 missile.” (Page 251)

Prior to the ultimate vote on the FY’09 Defense Authorization bill, Senator Dodd made a plea on the Senate floor asking for his amendment to be brought up separately. Senator Dodd argued, “It would be a great travesty, in my view, for us to leave here having the other body having adopted similar language. This is the one opportunity for this body to embrace an economic sanctions proposal, which would give us tremendous leverage in our efforts to bring Iran to that table.” Senator John Warner (R-VA) objected to taking it up separately, but he did note that he had supported the inclusion of the amendment in the manager’s package. Below is the full text of the Senator Dodd’s plea and Senator Warner’s response (thanks yet again to Lara Friedman for digging it up).

DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION -- (Senate - September 17, 2008)

Mr. DODD. Madam President, I know the Senator from Michigan is maybe doing so, but as I understand it, there was objection raised to the consideration of a managers' amendment regarding, I guess, 100 amendments. One of those amendments is a proposal of Senator Shelby and I, along with a unanimous vote of our Banking Committee, after lengthy discussion. It was the Iran sanctions proposal, which took a lot of work and effort to put together.

This was a comprehensive package, widely endorsed across the country by organizations to give us the kind of leverage necessary for us to bring Iran to the negotiating table diplomatically to reduce the threat that their potential nuclear arsenal poses to us, our allies, the State of Israel and others.

I appreciate the fact that the managers of this bill had included this amendment in their managers' package. It would be a great travesty, in my view, for us to leave here having the other body having adopted similar language. This is the one opportunity for this body to embrace an economic sanctions proposal which would give us tremendous leverage in our efforts to bring Iran to that table.

To lose that opportunity would be a serious loss of opportunity for this country. So, again, my dear friend from Virginia was here. Therefore, on behalf of those of us on the committee, unanimously, the Dodd-Shelby Iran sanctions divestment nonproliferation amendment to the DOD authorization bill, I ask unanimous consent that notwithstanding any agreement with respect to S. 3001, it be in order for the Senate to consider amendment No. 5572 and that the amendment be considered and agreed to and the motion to reconsider be laid upon the table.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?

Mr. WARNER. Reserving the right to object, and I will object, I wish to advise the Senator that the vote to take place right now is on final passage. It has been agreed to by unanimous consent. Prior thereto, the distinguished chairman raised the question of the package to which you refer.

I, personally, approved of putting in the amendment. It had been my hope, I say it is now no longer my hope, my disappointment, that that could not be achieved along with about 100 other amendments from both sides of the aisle.

So at this time I have to object and ask the Chair for regular order for the vote.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.

New Report Highlights Human Rights Deterioration in Iran

A new report from Human Rights Watch and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran documents the human rights situation in Iran. Under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's presidency, executions have risen nearly 300% and human rights protection has deteriorated to new lows. According to the report 29 men were hanged on a single day in July 2008, but the authorities announced the names of only 10 of them. The total number of executions has nearly quadrupled, rising from 86 cases in 2005 to 317 cases in 2007. Prosecution of dissidents for their beliefs and opinions has also intensified in recent years. Human rights defenders are routinely harassed and imprisoned for reporting and documenting rights violations. Iranian authorities have systematically thwarted peaceful and legal civil society efforts to advocate for women's rights. Women's rights advocates have been beaten, harassed, persecuted, and prosecuted.

Bob Barr: U.S. Should Talk to Iran

Libertarian Presidential Nominee Bob Barr said today that the U.S. should talk to Iran. "While the Bush administration has steadfastly declined to engage in talks with the government of Iran, five former Secretaries of State - Republican and Democrat - recently exhibited a great deal more judgment and understanding of world affairs in calling for actual talks with Tehran. Talking does not mean sacrificing U.S. interests. Rather, talking is a means to further U.S. interests.” Read his full statement here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Senator Dodd Pushes Iran Sanctions Amendment to Defense Authorization Bill

On September 15, Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) went on the record to push for his bipartisan sanctions bill, the "Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act of 2008," as an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2009 National Defense Authorization Act (S. 3001). Hat tip to Lara Friedman for sending along. Below are some the most relevant excerpts.

"We are considering, of course, the Defense authorization bill. This proposal, adopted and developed by the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs in conjunction with my Republican colleague and friend, RICHARD SHELBY of Alabama, former chairman of the committee, would impose tough new sanctions on the Government of Iran, to authorize investors to divest from companies active in Iran's energy sector and to combat the proliferation of black market weapons networks overseas...

"Let me be clear. Sanctions against the Government of Iran are not an end unto themselves but, rather, one means of driving a resolution of the problem of Iran's apparent nuclear ambitions. The Europeans' recent decision to impose additional financial sanctions on Iran is a very positive development that exerts further pressure to that end. The approach embodied in the bill I am talking about this afternoon is targeted and strategic, maximizing the economic leverage of the United States, our partners and allies in Europe and elsewhere, and international investors, while avoiding the risk of a more indiscriminate approach...

"Last year, the committee conducted a hearing on the effectiveness of Iran sanctions. Working with the administration, the Banking Committee acted swiftly to strengthen the U.S. trade/investment ban, and ultimately we saw enactment in October of the International Emergency Economic Powers Enhancement Act. This new law holds violators of U.S. sanctions law accountable, adding, I might add, jail time and severe fines against those investing in Iran or other state sponsors of terror...

"The Government Accountability Office then issued a report last December raising questions about whether our current sanctions regime against Iran furthers U.S. policy objectives and how they might be made more effective. Among other things, that report concluded that the ongoing illegal transshipment of sensitive dual-use technologies from often unwitting U.S. and other Western suppliers to countries such as Iran--sometimes through three or four levels of suppliers--is one very effective way around current U.S. sanctions...

"The missile tests that Iran conducted in July were provocative, and its persistent refusal to abide by United Nations Security Council demands--despite a host of sanctions already in place--is very troubling. Iran's behavior with respect to weapons proliferation, support for terrorism, destabilization of its neighbors, and threats against our allies and interests demands a very serious response...

"We only have a few weeks remaining in this legislative session. We will not return to actually legislate until late January of next year. I would hope we would find time, whether on this bill or some other vehicle, to enact, as I am confident we can, with a strong bipartisan vote, this Iran sanctions idea. This bill is one very important part of that response...

"First, the bill expands the definition of 'person' under the Iran Sanctions Act to include financial institutions, underwriters, guarantors, and other business entities and extends the applicability of sanctions to oil and gas pipelines and tankers. It imposes a broad ban on imports directly from Iran to the United States and exports from the United States to Iran of those few items still able to be shipped while exempting food and medicines to Iran, certain informational materials, and aids to navigation designed for safe operation of commercial aircraft.

"The bill also provides for a freezing of assets of those members of the diplomatic community or Iranian military who have been identified by the President of the United States as active in weapons proliferation or terrorist activity. The bill clarifies that U.S. entities that establish a subsidiary for the purpose of getting around U.S. sanctions laws can be held liable for the activities of their subsidiaries. The bill also increases funding to the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence of the Treasury Department to ensure that the international financial system is not used by those who support terrorism or engage in proliferation-sensitive activities.

"Finally, this bill imposes new requirements that the President actually make a determination and report every 6 months to Congress regarding the sanctionability of certain eligible investments in Iran's energy sector. This is designed to address the problem of billions of dollars in oil and gas investment projects being subject to sanctions--over $27 billion in eligible oil and gas investments since 1999, according to the Congressional Research Service--but successive administrations refusing to make final determinations required by law, much less impose appropriate sanctions on entities involved in such projects, I might add, have raised some certain issues...

"In addition to expanding U.S. sanctions on the Government of Iran, this bill would also provide a simple formula for divestment from firms which invest significant amounts in Iran's energy sector with provisions patterned after the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act that we all voted for earlier this year...

"The rationale for this is straightforward. Many of us believe Americans should be able to divest from energy firms doing business with the Iranian regime whose policies they abhor and which by their presence indirectly help to prop up that regime. They should be given the tools they need to make socially responsible decisions, and investors who choose to divest--States, large pension and mutual funds, and others--should be held harmless for these decisions. Likewise, firms which continue to do business in the energy sector in Iran should recognize the substantial risks involved in this decision and adjust their strategies accordingly...

"This bill is as much about enabling investors to manage risk as about having Congress set foreign policy. Make no mistake. Investing in Iran these days is risky business, and investors should be fully informed of those risks going in. This bill does not require divestment, it simply permits it, as with the Sudan legislation--if the investments in Iran's energy sector are substantial and if the divestment process is crafted consistent with the provisions of this bill...

"How would it work? First, the amendment authorizes States and localities to divest from companies involved in the energy sector in Iran and sets universal divestment standards. Secondly, the bill allows mutual fund and corporate pension fund managers to cut ties with companies involved in these key sectors and offers limited protection from lawsuits for those choosing to divest or not to invest in the first place, while preserving their normal fiduciary duties. Third, this bill allows State and local governments to divest their public pension funds from businesses invested in Iran's energy sector. Fourth, it establishes a new mechanism for disclosure for firms divesting their holdings in such entities and sunsets, I might add, the divestment mechanism when the President of the United States certifies that Iran has ceased its support for international terrorism and its support of weapons of mass destruction...

"Let's be very clear about what this amendment achieves in terms of divestment--and what it does not do. It does not outsource foreign policy to State and local governments or run afoul of the supremacy clause of the Constitution, as some have claimed. Rather, it protects the rights of investors to make socially responsible decisions--to refrain from holding assets that may serve to bolster the Government of Iran. It allows States and other investors to divest in a relatively uniform way, if they so choose, so they may avoid the complications of diverging approaches...

"Under this bill, States can act out of concern for the long-term financial and reputational risks posed by an affiliation with certain investments in the nation of Iran. Once identifying these specific risks, States are to inform the companies with a notice detailing such issues--not merely based on a foreign policy concern but on the State's assessment of the economic risks posed by investments in firms involved in certain energy-related business in Iran. It thus outlines a Federal divestment policy--a complicated and yet very clear path consistent with U.S. unilateral and multilateral sanctions already imposed, I might add--and authorizes investors to act consistently with that policy, again, if they so choose...

"Finally, and very importantly--unlike other legislation acted upon by Congress--the amendment I am offering provides new incentives for countries to strengthen their export control systems to stop the illegal diversion of sensitive and dual-use technology to countries such as Iran and imposes additional licensing requirements on those who refuse to cooperate..."

Rep. Hank Johnson on H.Con.Res. 362

Representative Hank Johnson (D-GA) responded to a constituent regarding concerns that provisions in H.Con.Res. 362 might be misconstrued as calling for a blockade against Iran. Rep. Johnson said he will work to amend or delete the provision. Below is the text of his letter.

September 8, 2008

Dear XXX:

Thank you for contacting me to express your concerns about H.Con.Res. 362, a resolution expressing the sense of Congress regarding the threat posed to international peace and stability in the Middle East.

As you know, H.Con.Res. 362 pushes for an international diplomatic response to Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons. It is currently before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and has 220 bipartisan cosponsors.

I chose to cosponsor this bill in response to reports about possible covert military operations in Iran. It appears that the Bush administration is already moving in the direction of war against Iran and we now know that the President does not feel he needs authorization from Congress. As a result, I felt it was important to push for what is essentially a non-binding statement from Congress that stresses the need to focus on diplomacy and working with other nations to lessen the threat from Iran.

H.Con.Res. 362 admittedly has some strong language. The strongest language requests internationally backed inspections of items departing or entering Iran. It is important to note that such functions have been conducted by the United Nations and called for in numerous UN resolutions. However, I certainly understand this part of the resolution could be misconstrued and I will push for an amendment that either deletes this statement or clarifies it further.

I appreciate your passion for this issue. I share it and believe that if Congress acts appropriately, we can successfully constrain any additional actions the Bush administration may look to take in Iran.

I am eager to hear your concerns and look forward to working with you. For more information, please visit my office online at Thank you again for contacting me.

Hank Johnson

Treasury Designates Quds Force Deputy Commander

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Treasury designated five individuals and two entities under Executive Order 13438 for threatening the peace and stability of Iraq and the Government of Iraq. The Treasury Department's action freezes any bank accounts or other financial assets found in the United States belonging to those listed and prohibits Americans from doing business with them.

Abdul al-Reza Shahlai, deputy commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' al Qods (Jerusalem) Force, was among those designated. According to Stuart Levey, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, "These individuals are targeting and planning attacks against innocent Iraqis, the Government of Iraq, Coalition Forces, and U.S. troops. Their lethal and destabilizing tactics, especially by Iran's Qods Force, are intended to undermine Iraq as it strives for peace and prosperity."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Shirin Ebadi Once Again Urges Against Military Action

Despite continued threats against her life at home, 2003 Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi once again urged against U.S. military action against Iran on September 13, 2008. During a visit to Los Angeles to participate in a PeaceJam event, Dr. Ebadi told the Los Angeles Times, "If there is a military attack on Iran, people will forget their differences with the government, and they will defend their country. It will also damage our human rights movement, because the government will expand its powers and limit freedoms using the excuse of national security."

New IAEA Report on Iran

The Institute for Science and International Security has published the September 15, 2008 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report by Director General Mohammed ElBaradei on Iran on its website.

According to the report, the IAEA has been able to continue to verify non-diversion of declared nuclear material. Iran has provided the IAEA with access to the material and to accounting records. "However, Iran has not implemented the modified text of its Subsidiary Arrangements General Part, Code 3.1 on the early provision of design information."

According to the report, "There remain a number of outstanding issues, identified in the Director General’s last report to the Board (GOV/2008/15, para. 14), which give rise to concerns about possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme." To resolve outstanding questions related to the alleged weaponization studies and other key outstanding issues that remain of serious concern, the report calls on Iran to "provide more information on the circumstances of the acquisition of the uranium metal document; clarify procurement and R&D activities of military related institutes and companies that could be nuclear related; and clarify the production of nuclear equipment and components by companies belonging to defence industries." The IAEA also calls on Iran to provide relevant documentation and access to individuals. According to the Director General's report, "Unless Iran provides such transparency, and implements the Additional Protocol, the Agency will not be able to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran."

The report also notes that Iran has not suspended its enrichment activities, as demanded by Security Council resolutions. Iran has also continued to make some progress on the installation of new cascades and the operation of a new generation of centrifuges "for test purposes."

In response to the report, China called on Iran to cooperate with the IAEA, but distanced itself from calls for sanctions, saying that sanctions will not resolve the nuclear crisis. Meanwhile, talks between German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on September 15 left much to be desired, according to reports. Steinmeier reiterated that the June offer to Iran from the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany was serious.

Five Former Secretaries of State Once Again Urge Talks with Iran

Five former Secretaries of State, both Democrat and Republican, once again urged for the next U.S. president to talk with Iran during a forum at George Washington University on September 15, 2008. Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, Warren Christopher, Henry A. Kissinger and James A. Baker III spoke about and took different positions on a number of issues, but the one on which they all agreed is that the U.S. should be talking to Iran. At a University of Georgia forum on March 15 this year, all five secretaries also agreed that the next president should open talks with Iran.

New Policy Briefing on Iran

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has just published a new policy brief by George Perkovich, Vice President for Studies and Director of the Nonproliferation Program, entitled, "Iran Says 'No' - Now What?" Perkovich argues that the cost of defiance of United Nations Security Council demands for Iran to halt enrichment activities should be greater, but the benefits of cooperation should also be greater. Perkovich offers a three-step approach for the next U.S. president:

• Give Iran one last, time-limited chance to negotiate suspension of its fuel-cycle-related activities. The European Union, Russia, China, and the United States have consistently increased offers of incentives to Iran without signs that Iran is willing to negotiate at all. Interlocutors should set a date to stop bidding unless Iran clarifies that there are conditions under which it would suspend.

• If Iran rejects the opportunity, break off negotiations and focus on developing a consensus to maintain international sanctions as long as Iran remains in violation of Security Council and IAEA resolutions. Rather than defending a redline Iran already crossed, the United States should build resolve within the UN Security Council and among allies for continued sanctions and robust consequences should evidence emerge of new Iranian weaponization activities.

• Finally, clarify the international redline. Even if Iran is able to weather sanctions, it may be persuaded to accept stringent safeguards and verifications inspections to prevent weaponization. Iran insists it has the right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes, but the international community could define its redline for Iran as weaponization, further violation of nonproliferation obligations, or withdrawal from the NPT. The United States and the Security Council should insist on an understanding that the use of military force would be authorized should evidence of ongoing weaponization activities emerge. However, military force must be limited to enforcement of nonproliferation obligations and not encompass a wider campaign to weaken or destroy the Iranian government.

New Bill to Prevent Funding for Overthrow of Iranian Government

This week, Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) will introduce the “Fair Dealing with Iran Act of 2008,” which prohibits the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense from providing covert or clandestine support, including military training or advice or equipment for military activities, for the purpose of overthrowing the Government of Iran. The resolution is based on amendments Rep. Lee has previously submitted to legislation for consideration, including Fiscal Year 2009 Intelligence Authorization Act. Below is the full text of the new bill.

A Bill
To prohibit the use of funds by the Central Intelligence Agency or the Department of Defense to provide covert or clandestine assistance for the purpose of overthrowing the Government of Iran.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

This Act may be cited as the ‘‘Fair Dealing with Iran Act of 2008’’.

Congress finds the following:

(1) The security of the United States is not enhanced when the United States acts in a manner that leads other nations to distrust its public pronouncements, question its motives, and view its actions with suspicion.

(2) Engaging in covert or clandestine activities intended to undermine or overthrow the Government of Iran is antithetical to democratic values and respect for the rule of law.


(a) IN GENERAL.—Subject to subsection (b), no funds appropriated to the Federal Government may be obligated or expended by the Central Intelligence Agency or the Department of Defense to provide covert or clandestine support, including military training or advice or equipment for military activities, for the purpose of overthrowing the Government of Iran.

(b) EXCEPTION FOR DECLARATION OF WAR.—Subsection (a) shall not apply if a declaration of war by Congress with respect to Iran is in effect.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Other Amendments Related to Iran in the Defense Authorization Bill

In her weekly Legislative Round-up, Lara Friedman points out four more amendments to the Fiscal Year 2009 National Defense Authorization Act, in addition to the two already posted on INW (Dodd-Shelby Sanctions Legislation and the Brownback annual report on Iran's military power and strategy).

As I have said repeatedly and consistently throughout the year, the most likely vehicle for passing legislation on Iran this year is amendments to must-pass legislation. It is very clear that both Democrats and Republicans are using the Defense Authorization bill as means for politicking and proving their toughness for dealing with Iran, which is proving an important issue in this election cycle. I will not be surprised if all of the amendments on Iran are considered germane and voted on during the debate of the FY'09 Defense Authorizaton bill next week. In my humble opinion, the debate on the non-binding H.Con.Res. 362/S.Res. 580 is basically a distraction at this point as the Senate prepares to debate and pass binding legislation on Iran, though still possibly subject to a veto, that will include more of the same wrong-headed approach for dealing with Iran, i.e. more punitive measures (e.g. sanctions, divestment, more money for missile defense, etc.) without any meaningful change in U.S. policy that includes incentives (e.g. a real credible offer for sustained, direct diplomacy without preconditions).

Here are the other four Iran amendments submitted, as included by Lara in her ever-fabulous Weekly Legislative Round-up:

SA 5359: Offered by Sen. Brownback (R-KS), SA 5358 would amend language in the bill related to the authorization of funds for the Airborne Laser System program. The original bill states that funds may not be obligated or expended for the program until the Secretary of Defense certifies to Congress that the system "has demonstrated, through successful testing and operational and cost analysis, a high probability of being operationally effective, suitable, survivable, and affordable." The amendment would change this to a certification that the system "has demonstrated, through successful testing and operational and cost analysis, a high probability of being operationally effective, suitable, survivable, and affordable relative to the ballistic missile threat posed by North Korea, Iran, and other countries with active ballistic missile development and fielding programs."

SA 5360: Offered by Sen. Brownback (R-KS), this amendment is similar to SA 5488, requiring an annual (rather than biannual, as stipulated in SA 5488) report on military power of Iran. The report would be required to address: "(1) The goals of the grand strategy, security strategy, and military strategy of Iran during the 20-year period beginning on the date of such report, and the relationship between such strategies and the current security situation in the Middle East and Central and South Asia. (2) The size, location, and capabilities of the land, sea, air, and irregular forces of Iran, including the Artesh, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Qods Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Lebanese Hezbollah, and any other force controlled by the Iran or receiving funds or training from the Iran. (3) Developments in and the capabilities of the ballistic missile, nuclear, and chemical and biological weapons programs of Iran. (4) The degree to which Iran depends on unconventional, irregular, or asymmetric capabilities to achieve its strategic goals. (5) The irregular warfare capabilities of Iran, including the exploitation of asymmetric strategies and related weapons and technology, the use of covert forces, the use of proxy forces, support for terrorist organizations, and strategic communications efforts. (6) Efforts by Iran to develop, acquire, or gain access to information, communication, nuclear, and other advanced technologies that would enhance its military capabilities. (7) The nature and significance of any arms, munitions, military equipment, or military or dual-use technology acquired by Iran from outside Iran, including from a foreign government or terrorist organization, or provided by Iran to any foreign government or terrorist organization. (8) The nature and significance of any bilateral or multilateral security or defense-related cooperation agreements, whether formal or informal, between Iran and any foreign government or terrorist organization. (9) Expenditures by Iran on each of the following: (A) The security forces of Iran, whether regular and irregular, including the Artesh, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and the Qods Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. (B) The programs of Iran relating to weapons of mass destruction. (C) Support provided to terrorist groups, insurgent groups, irregular proxy forces, and related activities. (D) Bilateral military aid."

SA 5362: Offered by Sen. Coleman (R-MN), this amendment would bar the U.S. from entering into an agreement for nuclear cooperation with Russia, bar the export and transfer/re-transfer of nuclear material, facilities, or components to Russia, until the President certifies that "Russia has suspended all nuclear assistance to Iran and all transfers of advanced conventional weapons and missiles to Iran, including the SA-20 system" or " Iran has completely, verifiably, and irreversibly dismantled all nuclear enrichment-related and reprocessing-related programs" and "all Russian forces have been withdrawn from the undisputed territory of the sovereign state of Georgia and Russia has complied with its obligations under the cease-fire agreement signed on August 15, 2008."

SA 5425: Offered by Sen Kyl (R-AZ), to amend a review of the ballistic missile defense policy and strategy of the United States mandated in the bill to include a review of, among other things, "The ballistic missile threat posed by North Korea, Iran, and other countries with active ballistic missile development and fielding programs, including the following: (A) The existing inventories of short-range, medium-range, long-range, and intercontinental-range ballistic missiles of each such country, and the ranges of such missiles based on possible launch points. (B) The ballistic missile programs currently under development by each such country, including, for each such program, an assessment of-- (i) the ranges of the ballistic missiles under such program; (ii) the fuel propulsion systems for such missiles; (iii) the booster and warhead characteristics of such missiles; and (iv) the capacity of such missiles to employ countermeasures, decoys, or multiple re-entry vehicles. (C) The ballistic missile tests and exercises of each such country since 2005. (D) The proliferation of ballistic missile hardware, technology and expertise of each such country. (E) The ballistic missile launch facilities of each such country, whether existing or under construction."

Friday, September 12, 2008

Senator John Kerry on Iran

Senator John F. Kerry (D-MA) responded to a constituent letter outlining concerns with the U.S. approach toward Iran. Below is the Senator Kerry's response, which details his position on how the U.S. should move forward.

Dear XXX:

Thank you for writing me with regard to U.S. policy toward Iran. I appreciate hearing your thoughts on a foreign policy issue which demands nothing less than our full efforts to find a diplomatic solution.

As our nation's intelligence agencies made clear in December 2007, now is the time for a sustained and assertive diplomacy to dissuade Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons. Sustained diplomacy does not mean that the threat of an Iran with nuclear weapons has gone away. In fact, we know that Iran once had a secret nuclear weapons program and that it continues to produce fissile material that can serve as fuel for a nuclear weapon. The question is how best to address this challenge, and the best way forward is through careful diplomacy.

I believe we must deliver a strong message to the Iranians as part of a comprehensive approach that imposes effective, multilateral sanctions should they continue to defy the will of the world. As part of our multilateral diplomatic efforts, the U.S. and our allies must offer real incentives for verifiable nuclear cooperation.

The recent incident in the Persian Gulf makes clear that we cannot afford to let our guard
down - and it also highlights the importance of dialogue so that miscommunication or misinterpretation of the motives on either side doesn't lead to heightened tensions. The U.S. Navy's firm but measured response to Iran's recent provocations deserves our admiration and I'd like to express my appreciation for their continued vigilance.

To ensure that America's policy remains steadfast and smart, and that counterproductive saber-rattling doesn't trump common sense, it's important for Congress to be very clear with the Bush
Administration. Because I do not want to see the President lead the American people into a wrongheaded war with Iran, I have cosponsored legislation with Senators Webb, Clinton, and Whitehouse to prohibit the use of funds for military action against Iran unless approved by Congress. As the elected representatives of the people, Congress-not the President-has the constitutional authority to decide matters of war and peace, and to use the power of the purse to enforce our will. Congress is a co-equal branch of government, and it's essential that we act that way.

Please rest assured that I am continuing to press for an effective diplomatic solution in regards to Iran. Thank you again for your letter. Do not hesitate to contact me on this or any other matter of importance to you.


John F. Kerry
United States Senator

Sarah Palin on Iran

In an interview with Charles Gibson for ABC News, Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin outlined her stance on Iran. Palin said that nuclear weapons under the control of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be "extremely dangerous to everyone on this globe." She also asserted the U.S. should pursue sanctions against Iran and cannot back-off. If Israel were to strike Iran militarily, Palin believes the U.S. should not second-guess Israel. Below are the excerpts on Iran from the interview transcript.

Sarah Palin on Iran and Israel:

GIBSON: Let me turn to Iran. Do you consider a nuclear Iran to be an existential threat to Israel?

PALIN: I believe that under the leadership of Ahmadinejad, nuclear weapons in the hands of his government are extremely dangerous to everyone on this globe, yes.

GIBSON: So what should we do about a nuclear Iran? John McCain said the only thing worse than a war with Iran would be a nuclear Iran. John Abizaid said we may have to live with a nuclear Iran. Who's right?

PALIN: No, no. I agree with John McCain that nuclear weapons in the hands of those who would seek to destroy our allies, in this case, we're talking about Israel, we're talking about Ahmadinejad's comment about Israel being the "stinking corpse, should be wiped off the face of the earth," that's atrocious. That's unacceptable.

GIBSON: So what do you do about a nuclear Iran?

PALIN: We have got to make sure that these weapons of mass destruction, that nuclear weapons are not given to those hands of Ahmadinejad, not that he would use them, but that he would allow terrorists to be able to use them. So we have got to put the pressure on Iran and we have got to count on our allies to help us, diplomatic pressure.

GIBSON: But, Governor, we've threatened greater sanctions against Iran for a long time. It hasn't done any good. It hasn't stemmed their nuclear program.

PALIN: We need to pursue those and we need to implement those. We cannot back off. We cannot just concede that, oh, gee, maybe they're going to have nuclear weapons, what can we do about it. No way, not Americans. We do not have to stand for that.

GIBSON: What if Israel decided it felt threatened and needed to take out the Iranian nuclear facilities?

PALIN: Well, first, we are friends with Israel and I don't think that we should second guess the measures that Israel has to take to defend themselves and for their security.

GIBSON: So if we wouldn't second guess it and they decided they needed to do it because Iran was an existential threat, we would cooperative or agree with that.

PALIN: I don't think we can second guess what Israel has to do to secure its nation.

GIBSON: So if it felt necessary, if it felt the need to defend itself by taking out Iranian nuclear facilities, that would be all right.

PALIN: We cannot second guess the steps that Israel has to take to defend itself.

Rep. Speier on H.Con.Res. 362

Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA), who took former Representative Tom Lantos’ congressional seat, responded this week to a concerned constituent that she is seeking an amendment with other co-sponsors to H.Con.Res. 362. According to Rep. Speier, “...upon reviewing the language in the Ackerman Resolution more closely I can see how it could be construed as advocating a blockade. Any reasonable person would agree that a blockade in this sense is an act of war. For this reason, I am seeking an amendment with other cosponsors of the resolution who share this concern for language that will be more specific in how sanctions would be imposed and to strike the language in the resolution regarding the inspections and the prohibition on the importation of refined oil.”

As I have said repeatedly, amending the resolution misses the point. Even if this clause was changed or removed, the whole resolution is provocative and sends the wrong signal to Iran and to the Bush administration that Congress supports a more belligerent policy and, potentially, belligerent actions against, Iran. On the whole, the resolution is simply more of the same wrong-headed approach to dealing with Iran. It calls for more punitive measures without any incentives.

Those Members of Congress working to amend the resolution are simply offering a bandaid for a resolution that should be scrapped altogether. These Members of Congress are misplacing their efforts in a game of appeasement between constituents and a very powerful lobby who is advocating its passage so they can score members of Congress in this election cycle.

Below is the full text of Rep. Speier’s response to her constituent.

Dear XXXX,

Thank you for your letter in opposition to H. Con. Res. 362, introduced by Rep. Gary Ackerman (NY). As you know, I am a cosponsor of this bill and while our opinion differs on the bill, I am certain we share similar views on Iran.

I do want to make one thing very clear: under no circumstances do I support military action against Iran. In fact, both the Ackerman resolution and another resolution I cosponsored, H. Con. Res. 33 by Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR), specifically state that the President cannot engage in military action without Congressional authorization. This authorization for war is something that neither I, nor the majority of my colleagues, have any intention of providing. What I do support is using a carrot and stick to encourage Iranian leaders to abandon their nuclear weapons program. The threat of economic isolation is the stick, while full diplomatic relations and the economic benefits that come with it is the carrot.

We need to redouble diplomatic efforts and prevent further bloodshed in the Middle East. This includes encouraging Iran to stop any pursuit of nuclear weapons. That said, you do make some very valid points, and upon reviewing the language in the Ackerman Resolution more closely I can see how it could be construed as advocating a blockade.

Any reasonable person would agree that a blockade in this sense is an act of war. For this reason, I am seeking an amendment with other cosponsors of the resolution who share this concern for language that will be more specific in how sanctions would be imposed and to strike the language in the resolution regarding the inspections and the prohibition on the importation of refined oil. I promise to listen and to make a serious effort to continue listening even when we happen to disagree.

Hearing from my constituents helps me to stay on top of a subject and really figure out what is in the public's interest. Thank you, again, for your comments.

All the best,

Jackie Speier
Member of Congress