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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Iran Sanctions’

AIPAC Conference Opens with Appeal for Bipartisanship

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

The pro-Israel lobby AIPAC opened its annual conference with an appeal for bipartisanship.

“Bipartisanship is essential,” Michael Kassen, the board chairman of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, said Sunday in his opening statement to the conference, which drew a record 14,000 activists.

“We must affirm bipartisanship in our own ranks if we want support for Israel to be championed by Democrats and Republicans alike, he said. “AIPAC’s political diversity is critical to our continued success.”

The conference opening Sunday follows a period of tension between the lobby and the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress over AIPAC’s backing for new Iran sanctions, which Obama opposes as a detriment to nuclear talks now underway between Iran and the major powers.

AIPAC last month retreated from pressing for an immediate Senate vote on the sanctions, not wanting to undercut its influence with Democrats. The group is still backing the sanctions bill but is not pressing for a vote until the measure has enough endorsers to bust a promised Obama veto.

A number of conservatives and Republicans have since urged the group to resume its pressure for a Senate vote, even if it would land AIPAC in a partisan battle. Advocates of renewing pressure for a sanctions vote say the stakes with Iran are too high to consider Democratic sensibilities.

Kassen’s remarks seemed directly aimed at those who would advocate for an immediate vote.

In addition to seeking additional endorsers for the sanctions bill, AIPAC delegates who will meet Tuesday with lawmakers will press for the passage of an enhanced U.S.-Israel security relationship bill. AIPAC activists backed the same bill at the last conference a year ago, but it has only made limited headway.

The delegates also will seek signatories on a bipartisan Senate letter to Obama outlining the “core principles” that must come out of the talks with Iran. Chief among them is preventing Iran from “having a uranium or plutonium path to a nuclear bomb.” A similar letter may also come out of the U.S. House of Representatives in time for the Tuesday lobbying blitz.

The “path” wording allows for a degree of flexibility between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s outspoken advocacy for ending Iran’s uranium enrichment capability and the Obama administration’s warnings that Iran likely will have some limited civilian enrichment capability.

Howard Kohr, AIPAC’s executive director, told delegates they would encounter a degree of resistance to their Iran-related advocacy on Capitol Hill.

“When you’re up on the Hill, no matter what reception you receive, no matter how forcefully your member of Congress may express reservations,” he said, “be gracious and be respectful and make clear that the conversation cannot end here, that you will come back.”

AIPAC to Congress: Iran Must Dismantle Nuclear Program

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee urged Congress to outline terms for a final nuclear accord with Iran that would include dismantling its nuclear program.

“We urge Congress to outline for Iran the acceptable terms of a final accord,” said an Op-Ed in the New York Times on Saturday signed by AIPAC President Michael Kassen and Lee Rosenberg, the chairman of its board.

“This must include, at a minimum, the dismantling of its nuclear program, so that Iran has neither a uranium nor a plutonium pathway to a nuclear weapon,” it said.

This was part of the message, the writers said, that thousands of AIPAC activists would take to Capitol Hill next week during the annual AIPAC policy conference.

Obama administration officials have said that a total dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program is an unrealistic expectation of the talks now underway between Iran and the major powers aimed at finding a formula to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

In Jerusalem to brief Israeli leaders after the latest round of Iran talks, Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman said she would not count out an Iranian enrichment capacity as an end result.

“The objective here is to ensure that Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon and that its program is exclusively peaceful,” she told Israeli reporters on Saturday.

“Whether, in fact, Iran will have a domestic enrichment program is part of the negotiations,” Sherman said. “In the Joint Plan of Action, it was envisioned that it was possible, that Iran might have a small, discreet enrichment program.”

The Joint Plan of Action is the interim sanctions-for-nuclear rollback deal that allowed the current talks to take place. The talks, launched last month, are for six months, but may be renewed for another six months.

The AIPAC Op-Ed notably did not embrace any specific legislation and noted that while the lobby still backed new sanctions that had been proposed in the Senate, it also backed delaying a vote for now.

President Obama had threatened to veto new sanctions legislation, saying it could scuttle the talks.

The Op-Ed urged Congress to assert its foreign policy prerogative, even over the opposition of the president, and press the case for a tougher line with Iran during the talks, including enhanced sanctions.

“Historically, presidents have resisted congressional involvement that would affect or constrain their diplomatic efforts,” the Op-Ed said. “At this moment, we must not allow Iran to dictate the appropriate role of Congress.”

Part of the message activists will deliver to Congress would be that lawmakers should assert a more robust oversight of the Iran-major powers talks, it said.

LA City Council Approves Local Iran Sanctions

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

The Los Angeles City Council approved a law that bars people investing in Iran’s energy sector from bidding on or holding contracts with the state of California or its local governments.

Friday’s 13-0 vote makes Los Angeles the first city in California to be in full compliance with the Iran Contracting Act of 2010, according to a statement issued by the council.

The state act was passed by California in the wake of the federal sanctions law, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act, which authorizes state and local governments to divest their funds from parties involved in Iran’s petroleum, natural gas, or nuclear industries and to bar such parties from state and local government contracts.

City Attorney Mike Feuer told the Los Angeles City News that his office surveyed all city agencies and did not find any that were not complying with the city’s 2010 ban on doing business with firms contracting with Iran.

“Today the City of Los Angeles is sending a strong message to an Iranian regime that has continually flaunted international law in pursuit of a nuclear weapon, while providing peace of mind to every Angeleno that our tax dollars will not support such efforts,” said City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield, an author of the state law.

Those testifying Friday in favor of the act included Dave Rand, chair of the Jewish Public Affairs Committee of California, and Sam Yebri, president of 30 Years After, a non-profit organization that promotes the participation and leadership of Iranian American Jews in American political, civic and Jewish life.

AIPAC Lobbying to Address Iran, Peace Process

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

The agenda for thousands of American Israel Public Affairs Committee activists who will meet with lawmakers next month includes Iran’s nuclear ambitions and Israeli-Palestinian talks.

“From March 2-4, more than ten thousand AIPAC activists will be in Washington for our annual policy conference,” according to an email the group sent this week to lawmakers.

The activists’ visit to Capitol Hill is traditionally the final event of the annual conference.

“As the culmination of the conference, the activists will meet with their Senators and Representatives on Capitol Hill to discuss the U.S.-Israel relationship including aid to Israel, Iran’s nuclear quest, and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process,” it said. “The meetings are an excellent opportunity for members to see familiar faces from their districts and states as well as to meet and greet new constituents—all of whom share a deep concern about the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to address the conference.

The lobbying comes as tensions continue to simmer between the Obama and Netanyahu governments over U.S. plans to unveil a framework for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, which likely includes elements that will rankle Israel’s government, as well as over sanctions-for-nuclear-rollbacks talks between the major world powers and Iran that Netanyahu says are emboldening Iran.

AIPAC expects 14,000 activists this year. Its lobbying on the last day of the conference usually is attached to a legislative initiative, such as a bill, a resolution or a letter.

The email did not name any such initiative, but AIPAC generally does not unveil these until the eve of the conference.

Cantor Compares Obama Iran Policy to Pre-WW2 Isolationism

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Rep. Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, cited the lateness of American actions against the Nazis in critiquing President Obama’s foreign policy.

In a speech Monday to the Virginia Military Institute, Cantor (R-Va.), who is Jewish, described leading a congressional delegation recently to Auschwitz to mark the 69th anniversary of the Nazi death camp’s liberation.

“Standing there as the frigid wind swept through the eerily quiet ruins of the camp, I could not help but regret that American action in World War II came too late to save countless millions of innocent lives,” he said.

“Hitler’s rise and conquest of Europe did not come as a surprise. We must not repeat the same mistake by reducing our preparedness, accepting the notion that we are one of many or ceding global leadership to others.”

Cantor said that “evil and hateful ideologies still exist in the world,” citing as perhaps the most evident Iran’s “determined march” to produce nuclear weapons.

“I can imagine few more destabilizing moments in world history than Iran on the threshold of being a nuclear power,” he said.

Cantor called on the United States to prepare for additional sanctions to counter what he said was the erosion of Iran’s isolation through its participation in international talks aimed at keeping it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

“An America that leads is an America that must work to restore the badly eroded international pressure on Tehran,” he said. “We should lay the groundwork now for additional sanctions in the event Iran violates the terms of the interim agreement.”

The Obama administration has said that the removal of a number of sanctions ahead of the talks has not diminished a tough sanctions regime. It has opposed new sanctions while talks are underway, saying that unilateral U.S. sanctions could fracture the international alliance that has nudged Iran to the talks.

Erdogan Says Iran is ‘Turkey’s ‘Second Home’

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is visiting Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran, which he called “our second home.

The ayatollah in return “described the current brotherly and friendly relations between the two countries as unparalleled in recent centuries,” Iran’s official Press TV reported.

Erdogan apparently has made another about face in his roller coaster policies of foreign relations. He once shunned Iran like the plague and then embraced the Ahmadinejad regime as well as Syrian President Bassar al-Assad after ditching Israel, its longtime friend.

When the Obama administration clamped tight sanctions on Ira, Erdogan kept his distance from Tehran. Now that Washington has gone back to “engagement” despite Iran’s stated aim of enriching enough high-grade uranium that could be used to make a nuclear weapon, Erdogan hastily beat the pat back to Iran with his eye on energy.

“It is obvious that we import crude oil and gas from Iran, which are strategic energy sources, and we [will be] able to increase the volume of these imports,” Erdogan said in Tehran. “Today we had a good chance to review bilateral ties.”

Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News reported, Despite claiming Turkey is not seeking any new deal with Iran ahead of his departure to Iran, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız, who accompanies the prime minister during his visit, admitted the intention for such a new agreement.”

Iran was Turkey’s third largest export market in 2012, and Ankara used gold and silver exports to buy Iranian natural gas and oil.

In State of the Union, Obama Pledges Veto of New Sanctions Legislation

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

President Obama in his State of the Union speech pledged to veto any new Iran sanctions.

“Let me be clear: if this Congress sends me a new sanctions bill now that threatens to derail these talks, I will veto it,” he said Tuesday night. “For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed.”

The Senate is considering new sanctions, backed by leading pro-Israel groups.

“With our allies and partners, we’re engaged in negotiations to see if we can peacefully achieve a goal we all share: preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” Obama said, drawing some of the louder applause of the evening.

In a statement after Obama’s speech, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), called on the Senate to pass a sanctions bill introduced by him and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and currently backed by 59 senators.

“The American people — Democrats and Republicans alike — overwhelmingly want Iran held accountable during any negotiations,” he said.

In his State of the Union, Obama also nodded to efforts by Secretary of State John Kerry to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, and pledged support for Israel’s security in the process.

He pointedly referred to Israel’s status as a Jewish state, a recognition Israel wants from the Palestinians as part of a peace deal.

“American diplomacy is supporting Israelis and Palestinians as they engage in difficult but necessary talks to end the conflict there; to achieve dignity and an independent state for Palestinians, and lasting peace and security for the State of Israel — a Jewish state that knows America will always be at their side,” he said.

More broadly, Obama said, as he launched his final three years in office, that he wanted to wean America from a “permanent war footing” and reduce the U.S. troop presence abroad.

“We must fight the battles that need to be fought, not those that terrorists prefer from us,” he said. “Large-scale deployments that drain our strength and may ultimately feed extremism.”

Treasury’s Cohen to Turkey, UAE to Talk Iran Sanctions

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Treasury Undersecretary David Cohen, the top Obama administration official monitoring Iran sanctions compliance, will visit Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

The Treasury Department announcement Monday casts this week’s visit in the context of making sure nations still comply with the main sanctions even as a number of sanctions have been removed while talks, known as the Joint Plan of Action, or JPOA, are underway between Iran and the major world powers aimed at keeping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

“Undersecretary Cohen will discuss the limited and temporary sanctions relief provided under the JPOA and continued enforcement of existing international economic sanctions against Iran,” the Treasury statement said.

Cohen and other Obama administration officials in recent weeks have pushed back against claims that the talks will relieve pressure on Iran and have noted sanctions enforcement.

A number of reports have said that several nations, particularly Russia and Turkey, are exploring enhanced business ties with Iran in the wake of the talks.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/treasurys-cohen-to-turkey-uae-to-talk-iran-sanctions/2014/01/28/

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