The president is trapped between an angry Congress and a stubborn China

…Although the White House denies that it is out of sync with Congress, Kenneth Katzman of the Congressional Research Service said this week that Congress was in a “ferment” to find “every which way” to squeeze the Iranians. The pressure is bipartisan: sponsors of sanctions resolutions include John McCain, a Republican senator, and Howard Berman, a House Democrat. One pair of bills would punish all firms, including foreign ones, that sell petrol or refining equipment to Iran (Iran is short of refining capacity). Other proposals range from targeting individuals involved in human-rights abuses to making regime change official policy.

Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has been dusting down the article George Kennan wrote from Moscow under the pseudonym X in 1947, calling for “patient but firm and vigilant containment” of the Soviet Union. One unintended consequence of Mr Obama’s extended hand was to aid the rise in Iran of a resilient democracy movement. Better now to encourage the opposition and wait for the regime to implode, says Mr Sadjadpour (he doesn’t expect to have to wait 40 years), than to concentrate only on the centrifuges spinning in Natanz. Mr Obama might think so, too—if only he could live with the idea of Iran going nuclear on his watch.


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