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December 1, 2015 / 19 Kislev, 5776
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Senate Foreign Relations Committee’

ObamaDeal Exposed: It’s not ‘Secret’ from Congress but not in Writing

Friday, July 31st, 2015

The State Dept. was caught in yesterday’s press briefing claiming there were no “secret deals” with Iran but admitted that it has no written copy of the arrangements it is defending.

Associated Press journalist Matt Lee questioned spokesman Mark Toner at Thursday’s press briefing about many Congressmen’s concerns over IAEA access to Iran’s nuclear sites under the nuclear agreement.

Republican Sen. Bob Corker has said that IAEA director Dr. Yukiya Amano did not accept an invitation to testify at Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on the deal.

Toner declined to say whether Dr. Amano should testify but added:

There’s [sic] no secret deals, and we heard that expression thrown out constantly over the last couple of days. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. The IAEA, which is the one that verifies – will verify this deal, does create arrangements with countries under what’s called the Additional Protocol.

And Under Secretary Sherman has already had a secure briefing with the House leadership talking about this arrangement, and we’ve continued to provide or we will continue to provide those briefings in a classified setting, as needed….

So the perception that this has somehow been – that Congress hasn’t been looped in on this, and what we know about these arrangements is, frankly, incorrect. But they’ve had to take place in a classified setting.

Fine and dandy, but the reasonable assumption is that someone knows about the arrangements.

Lee told the spokesman:

But the notion – you said the notion that Congress hasn’t been looped in, but you haven’t been looped in because you guys haven’t read it.

Toner admitted:

We haven’t received a written copy of it, but we have been briefed on the contents.

And Lee retorted:

So someone with a photographic memory has looked at it and copied everything down in their brain and then repeated it up on the Hill?

Toner fidgeted and explained that “nuclear experts with much bigger degrees than I can ever attain have looked at this and their comfort level with it is good.”

But that does not answer the question, “If there is no secret deal, why isn’t a written version available?

Iran Legislative Compromises may Cause Nuclear Explosion in Washington

Monday, April 27th, 2015

This week the U.S. Senate will meet to discuss what input Congress will have before sanctions imposed on Iran for violating a slew of U.N. Resolutions regarding its nuclear program can be lifted.

The offerings of amendments by various senators – whether for wholly ideological reasons, for presidential campaign purposes, or a combination and perhaps other factors – may result in a nuclear explosion of a whole other sort than the one the entire process was created to circumvent, and this one entirely within Washington, D.C.

The legislation formally known as the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, and informally as the Corker or the Corker-Menendez bill, was unanimously approved and voted out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this month.

The INARA which came out of committee imposed a change on the nuclear negotiations with Iran. Until then, Congress played no role.

With the passage of Corker’s bill in its current form, Congressional sanctions against Iran could not be lifted even following a signed agreement with Iran, for 30 days, while Congress reviews the Agreement.

Congress could vote against lifting sanctions if it votes down the final deal, although this would require the vote of a significantly higher number of Senators than most think is likely, and led some critics to say the final version was actually helpful to the administration, despite their feigned annoyance.

The bill in its current state would also require this administration and all future ones to certify that Iran was following the terms of the agreement.

Corker, with the assistance of Maryland’s Senator Ben Cardin (D), successfully maneuvered the bill out of the SFRC without any of the threatened amendments which they claimed would kill the deal, and leave Congress with no voice at all.

But, as Corker himself admitted, anything can happen in the “Wild West” of the full Senate floor.

And it looks like quite a few gunslingers are loading up their barrels with various amendments, any one of which may force a serious showdown between the administration and the Senate, between the Democrats and the Republicans in the Senate, and even, perhaps, amongst the Republicans themselves.

Florida’s presidential contender Marco Rubio (R) is busily showing the gathering crowd what ammunition he plans to unload, and he has quite an array in his arsenal. Each of these amendments, if passed, would constitute a condition Iran would have to meet in order for the U.S. to lift the current Congressional sanctions on Iran.

Rubio wants to require Iran to recognize the state of Israel. He also wants Iran to release American prisoners being held, such as Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) wants the administration to certify that Iran is not supporting terrorism targeting Americans at home or abroad.

Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) want a provision which would require Congressional approval of the deal, rather than simply the right to defeat it.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) has said he will introduce an amendment that will require the administration to treat this deal with Iran as a treaty and not simply an executive agreement. The difference, of course, being that Congress plays a full partnership role with respect to a treaty, and almost no rule in an executive agreement.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-ARK), prime mover behind the Congressional Republican’s open letter to Rouhani, which supporters of the administration claimed was treasonous, said he agrees with Johnson. “A major arms control treaty with the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism should be treated as a treaty,” Cotton said.

“The president should have to get 67 votes for a major nuclear arms agreement with an outlaw regime,” said Cotton. He wants to lower the number of votes needed to reject a deal from 60 to 51.

All those packing amendments are Republicans. “I have not heard of a single amendment on the Democratic side,” said Foreign Relations ranking member Ben Cardin (D-Md.), who worked closely with Corker to keep the SFRC members in line during the vote in that committee.

One option being discussed which would appease the opponents of the current bill, and still avoid incorporating language that may prove insurmountable for the Iranians, is to allow the inclusion of a “sense of the Senate” provision. This means the concerns would be raised in the narrative portion of the bill, but those points do not become an enforceable part of the legislation.

Debate in the Senate will begin on Tuesday, April 28. Once the bill is voted out of the Senate, it then has to be taken up in the House of Representatives.

Congress to Prevail: Iran Nuke Deal Oversight Veto-Proof Following Compromises

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

Are there teeth left in the legislation guaranteeing Congressional oversight of the Iran Deal, after compromises were struck to attain overwhelming bipartisan support? That’s the question as news begins to leak out regarding back room deals to make the legislation more palatable to Democrats and thereby ensure sufficient supporters to override President Barack Obama’s veto.

There will be a final vote on the measure this afternoon, U.S. east coast time. But early morning on Tuesday the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman and a lead co-sponsor of the Iranian Nuclear Agreement Review Act, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), sounded confident that the marked-up measure would be voted out of committee by a wide margin and that it would have the necessary number of votes for the override.

Dozens of amendments were offered by Senators on both sides of the aisle, including ones intended to address the issue of Iranian funding of global terrorism and Iran’s threats to annihilate the Jewish State.

Going into the day the careful nose counters were predicting that Corker’s bill remained at least one solid vote short of the 67 necessary to override President Obama’s veto. But by early morning, Corker was jubilant.

“We have reached a bipartisan agreement that keeps the congressional review process absolutely intact, full of integrity,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

The final language will not be made available until the vote is taken at the conclusion of the SFR Committee meeting, but leaked information suggested that language which would require the President to guarantee that Iran was not supporting or carrying out acts of terrorism against Americans or the United States was amended, and that the time period allotted to Congress for review may have been shortened from the 60 days in the original bill.

“We believe the American people want Congress to understand the details on their behalf,” Corker said during a CNN interview. When asked why Congress was not giving the President’s negotiating team the time that, for example, Secretary of State John Kerry asked for to allow the team to conclude their negotiations, Corker responded that perhaps there was a misunderstanding.

“We aren’t going to be involved while they are negotiating, but when they’re finished, we want this deal presented to Congress.” Corker said it should be put before Congress prior to any lifting of Congressional sanctions being lifted. While the CNN host attempted to pushback on Congress, suggesting it was overstepping its jurisdiction, but Corker insisted that Congress’s role was essential before anything happened which affected a Congressionally-mandated sate of sanctions.

“Iran is the biggest exporter of terrorism in the world,” Corker said, “and

Corker also mentioned that he believes there is language in the latest version of the bill that “addresses concerns over whether Iran should recognize the state of Israel as part of the agreement,” according to the Politico news site. The specific language Corker claimed addressed this issue was not specified.

The other language people will be inspecting with a magnifying glass deals with with when international sanctions against Iran because of its nuclear activity will be lifted. Initial reports about the framework agreed to by the U.S. and its other P5+1 partners and Iran were flatly inconsistent on when sanctions would be lifted, with Iran claiming (and demanding) that as soon as a deal was reached sanctions had to be lifted. The Americans, in contrast, said that the parties had agreed that sanctions would only be lifted once Iran was shown to have fulfilled its obligations under the terms of the deal.

In anticipation of the committee session, Corker was working closely with the ranking Democrat on the committee, Maryland’s junior senator, Ben Cardin (D-MD).

Kerry Tells Senate Hearing Israel Busted the Peace Talks

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Israel’s announcement last week of new homes for a southern Jerusalem neighborhood in an area claimed by the Palestinian Authority was the trigger that caused the blow-up in the American-led effort to extend peace talks, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told a Senate committee Tuesday.

He told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that after Israel refused to release a fourth batch of terrorists, and then followed that decision with the housing tender in the Gilo neighborhood of Jerusalem, “poof, that was sort of the moment,” Kerry said. “We find ourselves where we are.”


Just like that, with a snap of the fingers, after eight months of charades in which the Palestinian Authority and Israel made no headway, in which Israel demanded that Mahmoud Abbas declare that Israel is a Jewish State, in which Abbas continued to negotiate not to negotiate, it went “poof”?

Kerry is the same man who a few days said it’s time for a “reality check.”

After his “poof” puff, Republican Sen John McCain of Arizona told Kerry that concerning the peace process, “It is stopped. Recognize reality!”

But Kerry can’t. When Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said a couple of months that Kerry is “obsessive” with the peace process and is “messianic,” he was 100 percent on the money.

Only a few days ago, after the “poof,” Kerry said he wanted to focus on rescuing his pet nightmare rather than try to blame one side or the other.

“Look, to be clear, over the last 24 hours, there have been unhelpful actions taken on both sides here, and we didn’t think it was a productive time for the secretary to return to the region,” U.S. State Dept. spokeswoman Marie Harf said. “But we’re not playing the blame game.”

That was five days ago.

Since then, Abbas has insisted there is no turning back the clock. He will go through with his requests to join 15 U.N.-related agencies. He justified the action, a violation of the rules of the game Kerry laid down eight months ago, by charging that Israel reneged on a promise to release the fourth batch of terrorists.

The real cause of the ”poof” that blew up Kerry’s Peace Talks Follies was his dangling the release of Jonathan Pollard as bait to get Israel to agree to Abbas’ terms for releasing more terrorists That is what “poofed” the Arabs, who were enraged at the idea of Pollard going free while arch-terrorist Marwan Barghouti remains in jail..

The media parrots have forgotten all about that because it is more convenient to blame someone else, and guess who?

It no longer makes any difference what the facts are.

What matters is what they are perceived to be. So you can leave aside the fact that Israel and the Palestinian Authority were unable to agree on which terrorists to release.

And you can leave aside the fact that Israel made it clear, before “poof,” that any limited and unofficial building freeze, as part of a deal to extend peace talks, would not include Jerusalem.

Housing Minister Uri Ariel’s announcement of the new homes was the official stamp of that policy.

Kerry is desperate, and Abbas knows it.

That is why five days after he said he does not want to blame either side, he told the Senate hearing that, yes, the Palestinian Authority took an “unhelpful” action by its latest  ploy for attention in the United Nations, but it was Israel that “poofed” his peace talks.

Spokeswoman Harf tried to cover up her boss’s diplomatic faux pas at the Senate hearing.

“Both sides took ineffective steps. Kerry is not playing the blame game,” she told reporters at the daily media question and answer session.

AIPAC: Intensify Sanctions if Iran Advances Nuke Program

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

AIPAC joined Israel’s government and some congressional leaders in calling on the Obama administration to intensify sanctions should Iran continue its uranium enrichment during negotiations.

“To avoid any misunderstanding in Tehran, America must clearly signal that it will consider no easing of sanctions until Iran has verifiably suspended its nuclear program,” the American Israel Public Affairs Committee said in a memo sent Monday to congressmen and released to reporters. “If Iran’s nuclear activities continue, the United States and the international community should escalate sanctions and reinforce President Obama’s message that a credible military option is on the table to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.”

Top Obama administration officials have asked Congress not to consider new sanctions on Iran until after talks over the country’s suspected nuclear weapons program renew later this month.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has campaigned in recent weeks for intensified sanctions should Iran continue to enrich uranium. Last week, in a meeting with the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, he found a friendly ear.

“Our resolve to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear weapons capability remains unchanged and we will not hesitate from proceeding with further sanctions and other options to protect U.S. interests and ensure regional security,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said in a statement after meeting with Netanyahu on Sept. 30. “While we welcome Iran’s diplomatic engagement, it cannot be used to buy time, avoid sanctions, and continue the march toward nuclear weapons capability.”

President Obama has said he sees an opening in the ostensible moderation of Iran’s newly elected president, Hassan Rouhani, who has pledged to make transparent a nuclear program he insists is peaceful. Netanyahu says he believes Rouhani is lying.

Notably, the AIPAC statement did not embrace Netanyahu’s calls for an end to all enrichment as part of a final deal. Instead it called only for a suspension of nuclear enrichment as a predicate for negotiations, not as part of a final deal.

That posture is aligned more with Western powers, which reportedly are ready to allow a degree of enrichment to continue, than with Netanyahu.

U.S. Sen Foreign Relations Comm Queued Up to Vote for Strike on Syria

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

On Tuesday afternoon, September 3, U.S. secretary of state John Kerry went before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asking for its approval to launch a limited strike against Syria.

Kerry couched his request very clearly in terms of what it was not: it was not a request for approval to go to war. Kerry stated once again that “there will be no boots on the ground.”  What he was asking for was “the power to make clear, to make certain that the United States means what we say, that the world, when we join together in a multilateral statement, mean what we say.  He’s asking for authorization to degrade and deter Bashar al-Assad’s capacity to use chemical weapons.

The secretary of state made the argument in the plainest terms.  He compared what Assad has done – gassing hundreds of his own people, including hundreds of children – to the greatest evil most people recognize.  This administration is adamant that Assad be held accountable for committing a heinous act whose victims, Kerry and his boss insist, cry out for retribution.

So this is a vote for accountability. Norms and laws that keep the civilized world civil mean nothing if they’re not enforced. As Justice Jackson said in his opening argument at the Nuremberg trials, ‘The ultimate step in avoiding periodic wars, which are inevitable in a system of international lawlessness, is to make statesmen responsible to the law.’ If the world’s worst despots see that they can flout with impunity prohibitions against the world’s worst weapons, then those prohibitions are just pieces of paper. That is what we mean by accountability, and that is what we mean by we cannot be silent.

After four hours of debate in the Hart Senate Office Building, the committee will go into a closed session tomorrow and then, as early as tomorrow afternoon, may gave this administration what it is seeking: congressional approval to take limited action against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The initial text of the resolution authorizing “limited and tailored use of the United States Armed Forces against Syria” was made available late Tuesday evening, Eastern Time.  The committee will vote on some version of the draft tomorrow.

The secretary of state was asked what the administration will do if congress refuses to approve the use of force against Syria. Kerry said, “We’re not contemplating that, because it’s too dire.”

The draft resolution provides that the resolution upon which the committee members will vote shall be called ” Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against the “Government of Syria to Respond to Use of Chemical Weapons.” It will

authorize the president to use the U.S. Armed Forces as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in a limited and tailored manner against legitimate military targets in Syria, only to (1) respond to the use of weapons of mass destruction by the Syrian government in the conflict in Syria, and (2) deter Syria’s use of such weapons in order to protect the national security interests of the United States and to protect our allies and partners against the use of such weapons; and (3) degrade Syria’s capacity to use such weapons in the future.”

In addition to Kerry, secretary of defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Jack Dempsey also testified in support of the administration’s position.

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) issued a statement Tuesday afternoon.  Boehner said that “All votes authorizing the use of military force are conscience votes for members, and passage will require direct, continuous engagement from the White House.”

The draft resolution provides for a 60 day period during which the powers granted may be used, with a single additional 30 day extension.

Sen. Menendez: US-Israeli Bond Stronger than Turbulent Mideast

Monday, May 27th, 2013

The United States cannot stop at jawboning Iran and turning a blind eye to Syria but instead needs to take the offensive to “stand up for American’s interests” as well as those of Israel, said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Sen. Robert Menendez during his first official visit to Israel.

A strong and passionate support of Israel, he chose to write in the left-wing Haaretz newspaper Monday, “I arrive in a thriving Israel, but there is trouble in the neighborhood. From Egypt to Syria and beyond, the Arab revolutions have been a mixed bag for Israel.”

He wrote that instead of standing on the sidelines, the Obama administration “cannot allow the Iranians to continue to stall through talks while simultaneously bringing hundreds of new centrifuges online.”

He also stated that the United States must actively intervene in Syria, regardless of the emergence of Islamic terrorist groups among rebels fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“The United States must play a role in tipping the scales toward moderate opposition groups and work to build a free and stable Syria,:” he wrote. “I know that there are real concerns about providing arms to the opposition, and I understand those concerns. But the choice is not between arming and not arming. The choice is between responsibly stepping in and leaving it to others who will simply arm the extremists.”

The Atlantic’s Steve Clemons sharply criticized Menendez and the Foreign Relations Committee, warning that the senator does not understand that the “heart-breaking situation in Syria is…not nearly as vital to American national interests as” he claims.

“The al Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra front is one of the few Syrian opposition operations currently making headway against Assad,” according to Clemons. “When it comes to al-Nusra in Syria, the enemy of our enemy remains our enemy — but Senator Menendez does not seem to include this group in his fantasy vision of what the Syrian resistance is comprised of.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/sen-menendez-us-israeli-bond-stronger-than-turbulent-mideast/2013/05/27/

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