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.

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

How Israel Can Best Benefit from Its Newfound Friendship with Brazil

Jan. 21 2019

Earlier this month, Benjamin Netanyahu was in Brazil—the first Israeli prime minister to visit the country—for the inauguration of its controversial new president Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro has made clear his eagerness to break with his predecessors’ hostility toward the Jewish state, and Netanyahu has responded positively. To Emanuele Ottolenghi, the improved relations offer an opportunity for joint cooperation against Hizballah, which gets much of its revenue through cooperation with Brazilian drug cartels. In this cooperative effort, Ottolenghi cautions against repeating mistakes made in an earlier outreach to Paraguay:

Hizballah relies heavily on the proceeds of transnational crime networks, especially in the Tri-Border Area [where] Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay [meet], but until recently, Brazilian officials were loath to acknowledge its presence in their country or its involvement in organized crime. [But] Bolsonaro’s top priority is fighting organized crime. Combating Hizballah’s terror finance is a vital Israeli interest. Making the case that Israel’s and Brazil’s interests dovetail perfectly should be easy. . . .

But Israel should be careful not to prioritize symbols over substance, a mistake already made once in Latin America. During 2013-2018, Netanyahu invested heavily in his relationship with Horacio Cartes, then president of Paraguay. Cartes, . . . too, had a genuine warmth for Israel, which culminated in his decision in May 2018 to move Paraguay’s embassy to Jerusalem. Most importantly, from Israel’s point of view, Paraguay began voting with Israel against the Arab bloc at the UN.

However, the Paraguayan side of the Tri-Border Area remained ground zero for Hizballah’s money laundering in Latin America. The Cartes administration hardly lifted a finger to act against the terror funding networks. . . . Worse—when critics raised Hizballah’s [local] terror-financing activities, Paraguayan ministers confronted their Israeli counterparts, threatening to change Paraguay’s friendly international posture toward Israel. [And] as soon as Cartes left office, his successor, Mario Abdo Benítez, moved Paraguay’s embassy back to Tel Aviv. . . . Israel’s five-year investment ultimately yielded no embassy move and no progress on combating Hizballah’s terror network. . . .

Israel should make the battle against Hizballah’s terror-finance networks in Latin America its top regional priority.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Brazil, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Latin America