Eli Lake at Washington Times:
The Obama administration is pressing Congress to provide an exemption from Iran sanctions to companies based in “cooperating countries,” a move that likely would exempt Chinese and Russian concerns from penalties meant to discourage investment in Iran.
The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act is in a House-Senate conference committee and is expected to reach President Obama’s desk by Memorial Day.
“It’s incredible the administration is asking for exemptions, under the table and winking and nodding, before the legislation is signed into law,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican and a conference committee member, said in an interview. A White House official confirmed Wednesday that the administration was pushing the conference committee to adopt the exemption of “cooperating countries” in the legislation.
Neither the House nor Senate version of the bill includes a “cooperating countries” provision even though the administration asked the leading sponsors of the Senate version of the bill nearly six months ago to include one.
Ben Smith at Politico:
A Middle East hand sends over an excerpt of Eli Lake’s story today on the White House working to soften congressional plans to sanction Iran on behalf of Chinese and Russian companies. My source says the following took place in the bicameral, bipartisan leadership meeting with Obama at the White House April 14:
One congressional staff member working on the bill told The Washington Times that Mr. Obama personally asked the House leadership this month to put off the sanctions bill until after the current work period. Shortly after that meeting, both the House and Senate named conferees for the legislation.
Jennifer Rubin at Commentary:
What could possibly be the rationale for this? Why the Obami are working on an international agreement, of course, and we can’t let sanctions with bite get in the way of international sanctions without any. This is the substitution of the intermediary goal — international agreement — for the end goal (it is the end goal, right?): an effective sanctions regimen to thwart Iran’s nuclear program. It seems our real interest is to make China and Russia happy — and exempt them from public scrutiny for doing business with the mullahs
Apparently, the administration has given up on the end goal of effective sanctions and is now in the business of papering over its failure with an international agreement (that must be held together with bribes and favors to Russia and China). This is the equivalent of “engagement” — a time waster that allows the Iranian regime still more time to proceed with its nuclear plans.
I first reported the story here, and noted that the original proposal was a blanket exception for the P 5+1, which, as you might imagine, angered other US allies like Japan and South Korea.
Well, you didn’t think Obama was going to drop it, did you?
My guess is that Democrats who are worried about their seats come November are not going to vote with Obama on this. Hopefully, that’s all of them.
Mark Hemingway at The Washington Examiner:
The article also notes that China recently broke ground on a factory in Iran “that will build the Nasr-1 anti-ship missile.”
Daniel Foster at The Corner
John Hinderaker at Powerline:
In foreign policy, the Obama administration is setting a new standard for fecklessness.