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Obama no longer trying to eliminate Iran’s breakout capacity

By Missing Peace
  • This article was first published at Western Journalism.comobama

    Yesterday Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu received an invitation to address US Congress on Iran and Islamic extremism on February 11th. The Speaker of the House John Boehner sent the invitation “on behalf of the bipartisan leadership of the US House of Representatives and the US Senate”.

    It will be the third time the Israeli Prime Minister will address a special joint session of Congress. The White House immediately expressed displeasure with the invitation and the handling of Netanyahu’s visit.

    John Earnest, Obama’s press secretary said that typical protocol for a visit of a foreign leader had been breached.  “The protocol would suggest that the leader of one country would contact the leader of another country when he’s traveling there”, said Earnest. “This particular event seems to be a departure from that protocol”.

    An official in the office of Netanyahu said however, that the invitation was received only on Wednesday, and that it would be dealt with according to protocol.

    In Israel pundits were quick to make a link between Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu and the upcoming Israeli elections in March.  Ha’aretz reporter Barak David for example, wrote that Netanyahu’s U.S. trip was cooked up. He suggested that the official invitation had been preceded by contacts between Netanyahu’s advisers and Boehner. This suggested that the invitation was issued by The Republican Party only. However, Netanyahu’s staff said that it had come from the leadership of both parties in Congress.

    Although it might be true that Netanyahu’s address to Congress a month before the Israeli elections would likely mute opposition criticism that he has badly damaged relations with Washington, this is not what’s behind the invitation.

    Boehner issued his invitation after Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night and at the same time the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee conducted a hearing on Iran.

    The Committee is discussing two bills that the Obama Administration opposes. One will require the administration to seek Senate approval for any agreement. The Constitution requires the Senate approve each treaty with a two-thirds vote. However if the agreement does not bind a future presidency it isn’t considered a treaty and thus does not need Senate approval.  As will become clear further on this is exactly what the administration intends on doing.

    The other bill would increase the sanctions on Iran in July 2015 if a framework agreement is not made by the March 2015 deadline, However Obama (or any President) has the right to waive or delay the sanctions.

    Media reports about the Committee hearing focused on a statement by Democratic Senator Bob Menendez who said: “The more I hear from the administration and its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Teheran.”

    However during the same hearing it became clear that the Obama administration has again changed course during its negotiations with Iran.

    Menendez questioned Anthony Blinken the deputy secretary of state of the State Department. Blinken admitted that the Administration is no longer trying to eliminate Iran’s breakout capacity but to constrain the time in which the US will get notice of such breakout capability.

    Here is a transcript of that part of the video footage of Menendez’ inquiry:

    Menendez: So let me ask you this, isn’t it true that even the deal that you are striving towards –is not to eliminate any Iranian breakout capability, but to constrain the time in which you’ll get the notice of such breakout capability. Is that a fair statement, yes or no?

    Blinken: Yes, it is.

    Menendez: Okay, so we’re not eliminating Iran’s ability to break out. We’re just getting alarm bells, and the question is how long are we going to get those alarm bells for? Now, isn’t it also true that the administration cannot lift sanctions, that it can only waive them under the present law, yes or no?

    Blinken: That’s largely correct.

    You can watch the full video here ( the fragment with Menendez question to Blinken starts at the 4:45 mark of the video)

    Blinken’s admission that the Obama administration is not longer trying to eliminate Iran’s breakout capacity came a day after Obama said that he would veto any sanction bill that threatens to undo the negotiation process with Iran.

    The president said that such a bill would guarantee that diplomacy fails and would alienating America from its allies.

    Netanyahu however, has come out in favor of stepping up sanctions against Iran. The Congressional invitation to the Israeli Prime Minister must for this reason be seen as an answer to Blinken and Obama.

    According to Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, the invite extended to Netanyahu was an attempt by the Republicans to embarrass Obama.

    “There’s tremendous tension between Congress and the administration, and that’s nothing new,” Hanegbi said. “The new Congress was elected just a few weeks ago. There’s been a change in control.”

    “Now the Republicans are the majority,” Hanegbi continued. “They’re happy about this, and they will look to be a thorn in the president’s side in the remaining two years of his term, while the president will ignore them and continue to implement the policy in which he believes as much as he can.”

    For the Israeli Prime Minister however, the invitation was not a slap at Obama. Rather it could become a his last ditch effort to prevent the exposure of Israel to the existential threat of a nuclear Iran.

    H/T Blinken fragment Jeff Dunetz

  1. http://winstonisraelnews.com/gaza-war-2014/gaza-war-diary-thu-jan-29-2015-day-202-3am/
    Emanuel Winston Archives |
    on February 10, 2015 at 7:15 pm wrote:

    […] 3.Obama no longer trying to eliminate Iran’s breakout capacity By Missing Peace […]