Saturday, June 19, 2010

Scoop: White House Undercuts Congress's Sanctions on Iran and Builds Loopholes to Avoid Confronting Violators?

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By Barry Rubin

What's the next big story the mass media hasn't yet discovered about sanctions against Iran's nuclear program? It's this: The Obama Administration is pressing Congress to reduce the sanctions it is proposing. As you might remember, while the White House was backing a weak sanctions resolution through the UN Security Council, the U.S. Congress passed a strong bill that would really damage Iran's economy and undercut its oil sales.

During the several months that the bills were wending their way through the House of Representatives and Senate, the White House refused requests for guidance by the congressional leadership on what the president wanted. Now, with Congress determined to have a single joint bill ready for passage before the summer adjournment, the White House is telling them to ease up on Iran.

Aside from the terms of the new sanctions, the White House has proposed a novel, and somewhat amusing, idea. Countries like Russia and China would be classified as "cooperating countries" because they voted for the sanctions' resolution. (Since Brazil and Turkey, which voted against it, have said they will observe the sanctions does that make them also cooperating countries?)

The great thing about being a "cooperating country" is that even if you don't try to implement the sanctions strongly, or at all, you will be immune to punishment. Let's say that a Russian company breaks the U.S. or UN sanctions on Iran. It won't be put on a list of violators or suffer any U.S. government penalties. Perhaps the U.S. government will ask the host country to do something but if it doesn't act that would be the end of the matter.

In other words, this is a typical operation of seeking empty "support" without substantive backing and will subvert U.S. sanctions. It's no big mystery, for example, that China is going to keep helping Iran expand that country's oil and natural gas business and buy the products from Tehran no matter what the United States says.

The result, of course, is that the American people are told that the administration has gotten much tougher on Iran than it has in practice. Of course, the Iranian regime will know the truth and will defy and ridicule America accordingly.

The above has been confirmed but not fully detailed or proven. Perhaps some journalists can dig into this and I'll bet won't have much trouble finding out that this story is true.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (PalgraveMacmillan). His new edited books include Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict and Crisis; Guide to Islamist Movements; Conflict and Insurgency in the Middle East; The West and the Middle East (four volumes); and The Muslim Brotherhood. To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

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