In the Two Minute Drill, we explain complex issues in politics in 250 words or less (roughly the amount of words it takes the average adult two minutes to read on a monitor). Politics just isn’t always that complicated. Without the fluff and partisan bias, even the most complex of our political differences can be explained succinctly. This week: the Iran sanctions battle heats up.
New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez and Illinois Republican Senator Mark Kirk have been leading the charge for a new Iran sanctions measure that the Obama administration has warned could undermine ongoing multilateral negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. Last Tuesday, progress in negotiations with Iran prompted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to stall the Menendez-Kirk Iran bill, which would set out Congressional parameters on what a final deal should look like and impose new sanctions if Iran does not complete the final deal or honor it. In response, hawkish Republican Senator Lindsey Graham shifted tactics and began working with House leadership to pass the bill there first. Are there any good arguments for new Iran sanctions?
The Explanation (250 or Bust)
No. Simply stated, the “Iran Nuclear Weapons Free Act” (S. 1881) threatens to derail the breakthrough agreement that Iran and the P5+1 countries reached in Geneva on November 24 that will pause Iran’s most worrisome nuclear activities in exchange for limited and reversible sanctions relief.
First, in the November 24 agreement between Iran and the P5+1, the United States committed to “refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions.” S. 1881, which imposes further sanctions on Iran in several areas, would directly violate this commitment.
Second, moving forward on S. 1881 would threaten to erode support for enforcing existing sanctions amongst Washington’s negotiating partners, and would risk alienating states, such as China, that have cooperated with the existing sanctions regime.
Third, the Menendez-Kirk deal sets unrealistic demands on a final agreement. For example, according to the the November 24 agreement, the final agreement will include a “mutually defined enrichment program” for Iran. But S. 1881 imposes a different outcome. S. 1881 permits the suspension of sanctions only if Iran agrees to zero-enrichment and complete dismantlement of its “illicit nuclear infrastructure.” This may have been conceivable in 2005-2006, but today, demands that Iran permanently halt uranium enrichment are unrealistic and unattainable.
Fourth, moving forward on S. 1881 would give the hardliners in Iran considerable ammunition to assert that the U.S. is not following through on its commitments.
Bottom line: there are no good arguments for new Iran sanctions. But there are plenty of bad ones.
Word Count: 249.
The Five Most Interesting Things We Read This Week
Here are the five most interesting articles (both political and non-political) we’ve read this week:
- According to researchers at the New America Foundation, a DC think tank, “surveillance of American phone metadata has had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism.” From the sweeping new study: “An in-depth analysis of 225 individuals recruited by al-Qaeda or like-minded group or inspired by al-Qaeda’s ideology, and charged in the United States with an act of terrorism since 9/11, demonstrates that traditional investigative methods, such as the use of informants, tips from local communities, and targeted intelligence operations, provided the initial impetus for investigations in the majority of cases, while the contribution of NSA’s bulk surveillance programs to these cases was minimal.”
- “People considering whether to buy or rebuild at the storm-damaged Jersey Shore, for instance, could be looking at nearly a foot of sea-level rise by the time they would pay off a 30-year mortgage, according to the Rutgers projections.” The New York Times: The Flood Next Time.
- Despite wall-to-wall coverage, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s latest scandal has attracted little public interest. According to the Pew Research Center, majorities of Republicans (69%), Democrats (55%) and independents (60%) say that their opinion of Christie has not changed lately. The most closely followed story remains the cold winter weather that swept the country.
- “What if you didn’t have to pay for your data plan? What if the biggest data hogs on your phone – your music apps, your streaming video apps – didn’t count toward your monthly limit? Sounds like a tempting pitch, right? But it’s not a good deal. From Buzzfeed‘s John Herman: The Net Neutrality Nightmare Scenario.
- A recent Senate report on Benghazi offered conclusions that are broadly consistent with what we already knew: the attacks could have been prevented. What was perhaps surprising is that the investigation also found that the cost of the report may have been extreme. “The report also notes, chillingly, that the FBI’s investigation into the attacks has been hampered inside Libya, and that 15 people ‘supporting the investigation or otherwise helpful to the United States’ have since been killed in Benghazi.” From the Wall Street Journal.
And in case you missed it, check out The Weekly Column. This past week addressed the West Virginia chemical spill. Read the Column – West Virginia Spill Highlights Need for Tougher Environmental Regulations.