American Elephants

A National Shortage of Backbone? by The Elephant's Child

In the current Washington climate, there was a rare bipartisan compromise last week, led by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL)  to impose economic sanctions  on anyone who does business with the Central Bank of Iran.  The Bank pays terrorists and funds the nuclear program.  The sanctions passed the Senate  100–0.  The Obama Administration claims that the economic sanctions will bring Iran’s nuclear program under control short of war.

The White House supported the sanctions in October after the FBI uncovered an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in a Washington , D.C. restaurant.  Then it changed its mind.

Administration officials now say that if the U.S. closes its financial system to foreign banks that do deals with Iran, then U.S. trading partners might stick with Iran and deprive Americans of their business. Senator Menendez responded: “So we say to financial institutions, do you want to deal with the $300 billion (Iranian)economy, or do you want to deal with a $14 trillion economy.  I think that choice is pretty easy for them.”  The Wall Street Journal adds:

The Treasury also claims that central-bank sanctions could destabilize Iran’s economy and thus disrupt world oil markets, making prices go up and creating a windfall for Iran, which exports oil. Anything’s possible, but if you fear an oil-price spike, wait until Israel bombs Tehran after it concludes the U.S. isn’t serious about stopping its nuclear plans.

The Senate passed the sanctions anyway, yet now the Administration is trying to water them down in a House-Senate conference on a defense bill. Treasury is asking the conferees to strike the Menendez-Kirk bill’s most important provision, which applies the sanctions to any foreign central bank trading in oil via the Central Bank of Iran. The Administration wants the leeway to choose whether to block such banks from the U.S. financial system, or merely to “impose strict conditions” on them.

The Senate gave the president waiver options in a failed attempt to earn his support.  The Senate bill sanctions take effect after 60 days, so the President would have to issue three waivers before the 2012 election — having to answer to the public each time. Treasury would have the sanctions take effect after 180 days, so Mr. Obama would only have to issue one waiver before Election Day.

Goodness, if the sanctions disrupted Iran’s oil exports, it might increase oil prices which in turn might raise the cost of gas at the pump. And that might hurt  Mr. Obama’s re-election chances. Americans are very sensitive to the cost of gasoline.  Although not as sensitive as they are to a nuclear attack. A nuclear Iran just might hurt his chances of re-election as well.

Quite a demonstration of just what the President’s priorities are.

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