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Congress Has a Chance to Set Iran Policy Right—But Will It?

Dec. 12 2017

Donald Trump’s decision in October not to certify Tehran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, writes Richard Goldberg, had a chilling effect on Europeans eager to do business with the Islamic Republic, thus putting immediate pressure on its economy. But the president did not attempt to fix or renegotiate the agreement; instead, he opened the door for Congress to institute new sanctions. Goldberg urges legislators to rise to the occasion:

At first, it seemed Congress might respond to the president’s call for action. Draft legislation circulated on Capitol Hill that would force an immediate snapback of all U.S. sanctions on Iran unless the regime halted its ballistic-missile program and allowed inspectors into key military sites where covert nuclear work may be taking place. It also used the threat of U.S. sanctions to erase the many sunset clauses contained in the original nuclear deal, which established a path toward an internationally recognized Iranian nuclear-weapons program within a decade.

Now, almost two months after the president’s decertification, it’s increasingly clear we are headed for a legislative train wreck. Supporters of the nuclear deal are locking down Senate Democrats, ensuring there could never be enough votes to break a filibuster on meaningful legislation that actually “fixed” the agreement. Gone would be any requirements that Iran halt its development of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles—even though the UN Security Council resolution implementing the nuclear deal calls on Iran to do just that. Gone would be air-tight enforcement of inspections at Iranian military sites. Gone would be any automatic snapback of sanctions if the Iranians broke their obligations. Gone would be the president’s requirement to certify the deal every 90 days. The only thing left would be a de-facto legitimization of the deal tied to meaningless, non-binding policy statements designed to give political cover to senators who don’t want to look weak on Iran.

Given the executive branch’s unquestioned prerogative to change U.S. policy on the Iran deal and reimpose sanctions whenever the president wants, the leadership of the House and Senate should remember that bad Iran legislation is worse than no Iran legislation. Congress should not act unless it can pass legislation that increases U.S. leverage to change Iranian behavior by holding the sanctions sword of Damocles over the regime and its would-be trading partners in Europe.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Congress, Donald Trump, Iran sanctions, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

Why a Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza Is Unlikely

Feb. 16 2018

High-ranking figures in the IDF, along with some Israeli and foreign officials, have been warning that economic troubles combined with severely deficient public works could lead to an outbreak of starvation or epidemic in the Gaza Strip; their warnings have been taken up and amplified in sensationalist stories in Western media. Hillel Frisch is skeptical:

The most important factor behind real humanitarian crises—mass hunger and contagious disease—is first and foremost the breakdown of law and order, and violence between warring militias and gangs. This is what occurred in Darfur, Somalia, and the Central African Republic. In such situations, the first to leave are the relief agencies. Then local medical staffs evacuate, along with local government officials and anyone professional who can make it out of the bedlam. The destitute are left to fend for themselves. Hospitals, dispensaries, schools, and local government offices are soon abandoned or become scenes of grisly shootouts and reprisals.

Nothing could be farther from such a reality than Gaza. Hamas, which is the main source of [misleading reports] of an imminent humanitarian crisis, rules Gaza with an iron fist. Few developed democracies in the world can boast the low homicide rates prevailing in the Strip. Nor have there been reports of any closings of hospitals, municipal governments, schools, universities, colleges, or dispensaries. . . .

Nor have there been news items announcing the departure of any foreign relief agencies or the closure of any human-rights organizations in the area. Nor is there any evidence that the World Health Organization (WHO), which rigorously monitors the world to prevent the outbreak of contagious disease, is seriously looking at Gaza. And that is for good reason. The WHO knows, as do hundreds of medical personnel in Israeli hospitals who liaise with their colleagues in Gaza, that the hospital system in Gaza is of a high caliber, certainly by the standards of the developing world. . . .

Hamas, [of course], wants more trucks entering Gaza to increase tax revenues to pay for its 30,000-strong militia and public security force, and to increase the prospects of smuggling arms for the benefit of its missile stockpiles and tunnel-building efforts. How Israel should react is equally obvious. You want more humanitarian aid? . . . Free the two mentally disabled Israelis who found their way into Gaza and are imprisoned by Hamas.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian economy