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: U.S. economic sanctions and the authority to lift restrictions.
In Vienna on Thursday, six world powers (the U.S., Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany) and Iran made a “good start” towards reaching a final settlement in the decade-old stand-off over Tehran’s nuclear program. Both sides cautioned that reaching a comprehensive and final agreement would be a “complicated, difficult and lengthy process,” but expressed their commitment to working in “a deliberate and concentrated manner to see if we can get the job done.” In January, the U.S. and its P5+1 partners lifted some of the sanctions that have crippled the oil-based economy, and have promised to ease sanctions further in the event that a nuclear agreement can be reached. This raises the question of whether President Obama, should he promise to lift certain sanctions, will be able to do so, or whether he’ll have to get Congressional approval. Who controls U.S. sanctions anyway?
The Explanation (250 or Bust)
To be an effective tool in the furtherance of national security or foreign policy, it is essential that the U.S. have the ability to impose and ease sanctions with some nimbleness and responsiveness to changing events. Historically, therefore, the President has been afforded substantial power to enforce, strengthen, and waive sanctions with the stroke of a pen.
Congress has granted the President the authority to terminate most of the sanctions imposed on Iran. Before terminating these sanctions, however, the President has to certify that the government of Iran has ceased its engagement in two critical areas: (1) that Iran has ceased providing support for acts of international terrorism; and (2) that Iran has ceased the “pursuit, acquisition, and development of, and verifiably dismantled its, nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and ballistic missiles and ballistic missile launch technology.”
The government of Iran is designated as a state sponsor of acts of international terrorism, but the President holds the authority to remove it from the terrorist list. To delist Iran, the President must generally find that: there has been a fundamental change in the leadership and policies of the government; the government is not supporting acts of international terrorism; and the government has assured that it will not support terrorism in the future.
The second requirement, however, makes it extraordinarily difficult for the White House to use its waiver powers. And some might say nearly impossible, given that it goes far beyond the nuclear dilemma that is ostensibly at issue.
Word Count: 249
The Five Most Interesting Things We’ve Read This Week
Here are the five most interesting articles (both political and non-political) we’ve read this week:
- “‘I have truly, in my eyes, a phenomenal record,’ he says. ‘I don’t want to call it a street fight, but I’ll never back down. If the people want me to leave, they’ll tell me to leave. But no councilors are going to tell me to leave. I know what I’m doing is right.'” From Esquire’s Chris Jones: You may have wondered how it is that Rob Ford, the mayor of Toronto, has not been shamed from office. Here’s how. And why, he tells us, things are likely to get even uglier.
- “I probably shouldn’t say this, but I will. Had we been transparent about this from the outset right after 9/11 . . . and said both to the American people and to their elected representatives, we need to cover this gap, we need to make sure this never happens to us again, so here is what we are going to set up, here is how it’s going to work, and why we have to do it, and here are the safeguards . . . We wouldn’t have had the problem we had.” That’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. From The Daily Beast: We Should’ve Told You We Track Your Calls.
- “The company matches election results with subscribers’ musical preferences by ZIP Code. Then, it labels individual users based on their musical tastes and whether those artists are more frequently listened to in Democratic or Republican areas.” From The Wall Street Journal: Pandora Thinks It Knows if You Are a Republican.
- “In the course of a few minutes, three more bodies were brought in to join seven already lying on the pavement, bringing the total to ten. An Orthodox priest clad in black robes conducted an impromptu service over the dead.” A horribly tragedy has been happening on the streets in Kiev and other cities of Ukraine. Read – The New Yorker: Will Ukraine break apart? View – InFocus – Intense photos from the streets of Kiev.
- According to the National Science Foundation, around one in four Americans are unaware that the Earth orbits around the sun. Yes, 25 percent of Americans, when asked one of the most basic questions in science, got the answer incorrect. I don’t know what’s worse. That result, or the fact that a majority of young adults think astrology (astrology!) is a science. America, get your act together.
And in case you missed it, check out The Weekly Column. This past week covered Meet The Press’s pathetic climate change “debate.” Read the Column – There Is No Actual Debate over Climate Change.