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Now’s no time for new Iran sanctions

OpEd

By

By Sen. Carl Levin and Sen. Barbara Boxer 

The United States faces no more important international challenge than preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Thanks to congressional and executive action, strong international cooperation, crippling economic sanctions and the credible threat of military force if Iran does not change course, we recently achieved an important step toward that goal – a step that offers some hope for a peaceful end to Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

In two important ways, the Obama administration has effectively pushed Iran to the bargaining table. First, it organized the international community in what might be the most stringent international sanctions regime ever, exacting a high price for Iran’s refusal to accept the global consensus against its nuclear program.

Second, the administration has made clear that, while we want a diplomatic solution, all options – including the use of force – remain on the table in order to achieve our overarching objective of preventing a nuclear-armed Iran. Now, for the first time in more than a decade, this approach has produced the possibility of success.

This interim agreement doesn’t guarantee that we will achieve our ultimate goal, or that we should be any less skeptical of Iran’s leaders. In our view, there is no reason to trust the Iranian regime – and, therefore, every reason to make sure that we reach a permanent agreement that is airtight.

The interim agreement includes inspection requirements unprecedented in their scope and stringency. For the first time, the deal gives international inspectors broad, intrusive and frequent access to Iran’s nuclear facilities. For this reason alone – the ability to monitor Iran’s nuclear program more closely than ever before – this initial agreement is a clear improvement over the status quo. And it doesn’t just allow us to keep a closer eye on the Iranian nuclear program. For the first time, it halts, and to an extent rolls back, that program.

Just a few weeks ago, each passing day brought Iran closer to a nuclear weapons capability. Under this initial agreement, at the end of six months Iran will have no 20 percent enriched uranium available for possible weapons use, no additional 3.5 percent low-enriched uranium in its stockpile, no new centrifuges for uranium enrichment and no use of advanced centrifuges.

And this agreement offers hope of something greater. It offers the chance to end our confrontation with Iran peacefully – instead of a status quo that offers no alternative to ending Iran’s march toward a nuclear weapon short of military action. The past few months have made clear that the Iranian people want to change their country’s anti-Western outlook and to end its pariah status. So we have an obligation to test the willingness of Iran’s leaders to give up the possibility of acquiring a nuclear weapon. And if they fail that test, everything is still on the table.

Media reports have suggested that Congress intends to pass legislation soon that would impose additional sanctions on Iran. That would run the risk of derailing efforts toward a peaceful resolution and risk the unity we have achieved with the world community that has been so crucial to our progress to date. Fortunately, many in Congress, us included, believe that we must test this window of opportunity to see whether Iran’s new President, Hassan Rouhani, can deliver on the promise of a comprehensive solution that closes Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon.

As staunch supporters of Israel, we understand the dire risk to our Israeli allies should Iran cross the nuclear threshold. If Iran does not follow through on this opening or if in the end the regime is not willing to rejoin the community of nations, then we should impose even more crippling sanctions, and make clear that all potential options, including the use of military force, remain available.

But we shouldn’t pass legislation now that would endanger negotiations that most people and countries want to succeed.

Such congressional action now could bolster the efforts of Iran’s militants to kill the deal.

• • •

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) is a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

  • Robert Piazza

    Past history with this country’s leadership should be a clear indicator of the naivete of those that think they have changed!
    So the saying goes, if you keep doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different outcome, you may be insane.

    • Tom Sokolowski

      Robert, when you say “you keep doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different outcome, you may be insane,” are you referring to the Congressional Republicans who tried to repeal Obamacare unsuccessfully over forty times to no avail? If so, I agree
      with you 100%. Finally a sensible explanation for their crazy behavior; they are actually insane. Thanks Robert and Happy Holidays!

    • Chris Scott

      Mr Piazza;
      You have the situation exactly backwards. When the US, and other western powers, began sanction against Iran 10-15 years ago, they had possibly 80 centrifuges for enriching uranium. Today they have more than 180,000 centrifuges and have begun making more advanced centrifuges. Obviously sanctions alone have not worked to prevent Iran’s advancement of their nuclear program. This is why The US, Russia, China and the other major powers agreed to the 6 month trial negotiations.

      The phrase, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” in this case applies to the US, et al.

      Anecdote; “The definition of insanity…” is the most overused cliche of all time.

      • Robert Piazza

        Let’s see if I got this right!
        Numerous negotiations by several administrations since the early 80′s have failed to stop Iran from enriching uranium to weapons grade material.
        Since negotiations didn’t work, sanctions were imposed. Sanctions haven’t worked so you think negotiations are now going to work.
        Do I have that right?
        Anyone who believe that continued discussion or sanctions with the Iranian regime will get them to stop their nuclear weapons program needs a colonoscopy to find their brain!

        • Phineas Worthington

          The sanctions regime is precisely what brought Iran to negotiate, the Obama admin says this. Yet the Obama admin seeks to take away the very thing that is working, the sanctions. Its insane policy that will lead to more conflict rather than a resolution to conflict.

          • Chris Scott

            Mr Piazza;
            Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance. George Bernard Shaw

            Summary:
            Iran is forced to negotiate by the combination of;
            sanctions of the

            Improve your knowledge of US-Iran relations;
            1. Fox News: “A brief history of US-Iranian relations,” Published September 20, 2013, Associated Press
            2. “Iran–Iraq War,” From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

            From Web Site: Global Firepower;
            3. “Military Strength of Iran – Global Firepower”
            4.. “Middle Eastern Countries Ranked by Military Strength – Global Firepower”

            Sanctions:
            5. “U.S. sanctions against Iran,” From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
            6. “International Sanctions against Iran.” From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

            ***** THE most important factors effecting Iran today and its motivation to negotiate;
            7. “Demographics of Iran,” From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
            8. “Economy of Iran,” From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Excerpt:

            ” – International sanctions (Main article: International sanctions against Iran)

            After the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the United States ended its economic and diplomatic ties with Iran, banned Iranian oil imports and froze approximately $11 billion of its assets.[267] In 1996, the U.S. Government passed the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) which prohibits U.S. (and non-U.S.) companies from investing and trading with Iran in amounts of more than $20 million annually.[268] Since 2000 exceptions to this restriction have been made for items including pharmaceuticals and medical equipment.[269]

            Iran’s nuclear program has been the subject of contention with the West since 2006 over suspicions of its intentions. The UN Security Council imposed sanctions against select companies linked to the nuclear program, thus furthering the country’s economic isolation.[33] Sanctions notably bar nuclear, missile and many military exports to Iran and target investments in oil, gas and petrochemicals, exports of refined petroleum products, as well as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, banks, insurance, financial transactions and shipping.[270] In 2012 the European Union tightened its own sanctions by joining the three decade-old US oil embargo against Iran.[271][272]

            - Effects[edit]
            According to Undersecretary of State William Burns, Iran may be losing as much as $60 billion annually in energy investment.[273] Sanctions are making imports 24% more costly on average.[274] In addition, the latest round of sanctions could cost Iran annually $50 billion in lost oil revenues.[275] Iran is increasingly using barter trade because its access to the international dollar payment system has been denied. According to Iranian officials, large-scale withdrawal by international companies represents an “opportunity” for domestic companies to replace them.[276][277]

            The IEA estimated that Iranian exports fell to a record of 860,000 bpd in September 2012 from 2.2 million bpd at the end of 2011. This fall led to a drop in revenues and clashes on the streets of Tehran when the local currency, the rial, collapsed. September 2012 output was Iran’s lowest since 1988.[278]

            The U.S. Energy Department has warned that imposing oil embargoes on Iran would increase world oil prices by widening the gap between supply and demand.[279] According to the U.S. Iran could reduce the world price of crude petroleum by 10%, saving the United States annually $76 billion (at the proximate 2008 world oil price of $100/bbl). Opening Iran’s market place to foreign investment could also be a boon to competitive U.S. multinational firms operating in a variety of manufacturing and service sectors.[280] “

          • Chris Scott

            Mr Piazza;

            In particular you are uninformed and illinformed on the history of sanctions on Iran. The same on Iran in general. Hopefully this will provide some improvement and supply a list of resources.

            Summary:
            Iran is forced to negotiate by the combination of;
            1. Sanctions of the last 5 years under Obama, Iran’s trading oil on world markets effectively halted.
            2. Iranian economy is crippled; Income from oil cutoff.
            3. Demographics; Age Demography (2011); 30% < 20; 45% < 50 years old, well educated, westernized, demand change.

            In order for the old ruling religious leaders to maintain and stay in power they have to fix their economy (get the oil sanctions lifted). The necular program drains the economy. The rising demographic demands jobs and improved living standards & low priority for necular.

            Iran's position, no one is going to attack Iran, surgically or otherwise. Iran is the most well armed and largest military in the middle east outside of Israel. They can effectively halt the flow of oil through the Straits of Hormuz. The threat to oil shipping is enough to drive up shipping insurance rates to stop the flow of oil.

            The only way the US could wage war against Iran would be to reinstate the draft.

            Wish to debate? Do your homework.

            Resources on Iran and US-Iran relations;
            1. Fox News: "A brief history of US-Iranian relations," Published September 20, 2013, Associated Press
            2. "Iran–Iraq War," From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

            From Web Site: Global Firepower;
            3. "Military Strength of Iran – Global Firepower"
            4. “Middle Eastern Countries Ranked by Military Strength – Global Firepower”

            Sanctions:
            5. "U.S. sanctions against Iran," From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
            6. "International Sanctions against Iran." From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

            ***** THE most important factors effecting Iran today and its motivation to negotiate;
            7. "Demographics of Iran," From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
            8. "Economy of Iran," From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Excerpt:

            " – International sanctions (Main article: International sanctions against Iran)
            After the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the United States ended its economic and diplomatic ties with Iran, banned Iranian oil imports and froze approximately $11 billion of its assets.[267] In 1996, the U.S. Government passed the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) which prohibits U.S. (and non-U.S.) companies from investing and trading with Iran in amounts of more than $20 million annually.[268] Since 2000 exceptions to this restriction have been made for items including pharmaceuticals and medical equipment.[269]

            Iran's nuclear program has been the subject of contention with the West since 2006 over suspicions of its intentions. The UN Security Council imposed sanctions against select companies linked to the nuclear program, thus furthering the country's economic isolation.[33] Sanctions notably bar nuclear, missile and many military exports to Iran and target investments in oil, gas and petrochemicals, exports of refined petroleum products, as well as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, banks, insurance, financial transactions and shipping.[270] In 2012 the European Union tightened its own sanctions by joining the three decade-old US oil embargo against Iran.[271][272]

            - Effects[edit]
            According to Undersecretary of State William Burns, Iran may be losing as much as $60 billion annually in energy investment.[273] Sanctions are making imports 24% more costly on average.[274] In addition, the latest round of sanctions could cost Iran annually $50 billion in lost oil revenues.[275] Iran is increasingly using barter trade because its access to the international dollar payment system has been denied. According to Iranian officials, large-scale withdrawal by international companies represents an "opportunity" for domestic companies to replace them.[276][277]

            The IEA estimated that Iranian exports fell to a record of 860,000 bpd in September 2012 from 2.2 million bpd at the end of 2011. This fall led to a drop in revenues and clashes on the streets of Tehran when the local currency, the rial, collapsed. September 2012 output was Iran's lowest since 1988.[278]

            The U.S. Energy Department has warned that imposing oil embargoes on Iran would increase world oil prices by widening the gap between supply and demand.[279] According to the U.S. Iran could reduce the world price of crude petroleum by 10%, saving the United States annually $76 billion (at the proximate 2008 world oil price of $100/bbl). Opening Iran’s market place to foreign investment could also be a boon to competitive U.S. multinational firms operating in a variety of manufacturing and service sectors.[280] "

          • Phineas Worthington

            Precisely, the sanctions regime is working so it makes no sense to take away the very non-military intervention leverage that is working. President Obama should keep up the pressure, especially since the Iranians are refusing to quit enriching. They agree to stop and then continue secretly.

            Since we cannot count on the president to keep up the pressure, the Senate has put forward a bill to add transparency to investments to inform individuals and companies when their money is being invested in Iran. Hopefully investors can keep up the pressure by disinvesting from Iran.

            We know we cannot count on most members of the UN.

            Unfortunately, this will likely end the same way as NK. And we will have to deal with the subsequent higher danger of nuclear proliferation throughout the ME and Asia that is predicted to follow suit. American retreat from the world stage has serious, dangerous consequences, and we don’t have to invade anyone to simply be engaged.

          • Chris Scott

            Mr Worthington;
            Just between us girls; promise I wont tell a sole. Just between the two of us. It really has nothing to do with Iran and their nuclear program, for you it’s about Obama.

  • Robert Piazza

    No Tom! Ignorance, stupidity and insanity is not limited to Republicans. In fact, the art of insanity has been honed and perfected by progressive liberals.

    • Tom Sokolowski

      You mean the Liberals who helped women and African Americans get the right to vote, who created Social Security and Medicare, who helped end segregation and helped pass the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, who created the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the GI Bill, the ‘Space Program, the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps, unemployment insurance, food stamps, and our current labor laws outlawing child labor and giving us a 40 hour work week: Those Liberals?

      Not sure if I agree with your point about Liberals. Liberals have created successful programs that have helped make America what it is today, while Republicans have
      fought against every program that benefits most Americans, unsuccessfully I might add. What have Republicans done, other than start two wars they couldn’t finish, outsource our largest corporations, and give tax breaks to the rich?

      • Robert Piazza

        Yes, Tom the same liberals who opposed these bills which would not have been passed by the house and senate, if it were not for the Republicans.
        I again suggest you check history before making such allegations and claims.

        I’ll just relate some history for the Civil Rights Bill to make my point. If you check the Voting Right Act of 1965 you will find similar liberal opposition as well as the Supreme Court recently ruling parts of the bill as unconstitutional.
        Liberals have a history of proposing bills that have unconstitutional elements.
        Why is that?

        Civil Rights Bill:
        “the Rules Committee, whose chairman, Howard W. Smith, a Democrat and avid segregationist from Virginia, indicated his intention to keep the bill bottled up indefinitely.”
        “When the bill came before the full Senate for debate on March 30, 1964,
        the “Southern Bloc” of 18 southern Democratic Senators and one
        Republican Senator led by Richard Russell (D-GA) launched a filibuster to prevent its passage.[13] Said Russell: “We will resist to the bitter end any measure or any movement which would have a tendency to bring about social equality and intermingling and amalgamation of the races in our (Southern) states.”
        The most fervent opposition to the bill came from Senator Strom Thurmond
        (D-SC): “This so-called Civil Rights Proposals, which the President has
        sent to Capitol Hill for enactment into law, are unconstitutional,
        unnecessary, unwise and extend beyond the realm of reason. This is the
        worst civil-rights package ever presented to the Congress and is
        reminiscent of the Reconstruction proposals and actions of the radical Republican Congress.”

        • Chris Scott

          Mr Piazza;
          What’s your point? It’s not 1964. The differences between 1964 and today are in reality little changed. Politics has always been politics. Throughout history people as well as political parties have moved, evolved, realigned and or changed or re-changed sides or positions on any number of issue any number of times. When it comes to politics to ascribe the past to the present is silly. It only causes the reader or listener to snicker, “what’s this have to do with anything today? It’s not 1964; it’s today, 2014.

          Republicans used to be the party of isolationists; involvement in conflicts only if the US was threatened. Today republicans’ are interventionists and believers in The Bush Doctrine of preemptive wars; attack Iran, attack Syria, etc. “Remember John McCain’s song, “Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.”

          Republicans once did support the abolition of slavery and did support passage of the 14th Amendment. Many Republicans did support civil rights in the 60’s. Today republican governors and legislatures in 20 states have passed and implemented laws to make it more difficult for citizens to vote. As well as actively pursue voter suppression.

          Republican politics have come a long way since 1864 and 1964. Doubtless Abraham Lincoln is rolling over in his grave and Ronald Reagan could not get elected dog catcher, let alone a primary, in today’s Republican Party.

          • Robert Piazza

            “That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most
            important of all the lessons that history has to teach.”


            Aldous Huxley,

            Collected Essays

          • Chris Scott

            Mr Piazza;
            Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.
            George Bernard Shaw

  • Phineas Worthington

    There have been no meaningful, forceful responses to Iranian attacks upon American civilians or military personnel for decades by leaders of both parties. There is no reason to think such threats are even credible.

    • Chris Scott

      Mr Worthington;
      Do you ever do any investigation before making a comment to see if the facts support your supposition or opinion? Had you on Iran you would not have done such a disservice to yourself in so dramatically exposing your lack of knowledge.

      • Phineas Worthington

        So which facts are you challenging? You haven’t stated any.