Berman Iran Sanctions Bill Approved by House, Senate Committees

[cross-posted at Tikun Olam]

Yesterday and today, the and the Senate banking committee approved new sanctions legislation, the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act (IRPSA), designed to punish Iran for its nuclear program. The legislation, written by Howard Berman, one of Aipac’s leading stooges (er, friends) on the Hill, targets oil-related products. I noted in earlier posts that the otherwise progressive J Street has publicly endorsed it as “thoughtful and nuanced.” At the same time, Jeremy Ben Ami, during the J Street national conference, suggested the contradictory notion that U.S. policy should embrace diplomatic efforts, but not yet sanctions.

Trita Parsi noted during the same conference that anti-Iran sanctions have been in place for 15 years and have had virtually no effect other than to entrench the Revolutionary Guards who profit immensely from the smuggling trade. The same will likely happen in spades when the new sanctions take effect. At a recent hawkish pro-Israel Seattle presentation on Iran, an Aipac representative conceded that sanctions have virtually no impact on the leadership, but instead punish the common Iranian. His response: “That’s the price they have to pay.”

Make no mistake about it, this policy is bought and paid for by the Israeli government and its domestic agent, Aipac. Congress is following the rules as indirectly laid down by the Netanyahu government. Certainly, there is strong sentiment for such a policy among American Jews as well. So in effect Berman and his buddies are doing something that makes their friends at Aipac happy while also satisfying their wealthy Jewish donors, and even rank and file Jews.

Regardless of all this, sanctions are a recipe for failure. Every major Iran analyst says this including Trita Parsi, Hillary and Flynt Leverett, Roger Cohen, Anthony Cordesman, and many others. More than this, after sanctions fail and Iran’s nuclear ambitions still remain unrestrained, that is when the calls for military solutions will ring loudly from Tel Aviv to Capital Hill. It will then be hard to avoid the siren call of armed force. Virtually all of Israel will be singing the tune. Iran war hawks in the Israel lobby and Congress will be joining in.

What causes me great fear is that like Ulysses’ sailors, we will be lured into war by the entrancing notes of the Sirens, notes that will lead many to leap to their proverbial death, just as Greek mariners did before Homer’s hero finally succeeded in defying their lulling call. I worry that by the time we have convinced enough Americans and fellow Jews that current policy is doomed to fail, we will be too late and the bombs will fall and blood will flow.

In a related matter, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan began a visit to Iran yesterday which appeared to mark both a growing closeness between the two nations and a growing distancing of Turkey and western nations like Israel, the EU, and the U.S. It is no accident that Erdogan expressed his displeasure today with the mounting pressure exerted by the west on Iran. This is yet another signal of the major east-west fissure that will come if Israel and the U.S. exert mounting pressure on Iran and even resort to force to secure their desired policy outcome.

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