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July 30, 2013 11:34 am

Liberal Democrats Urge US Congress to Hold Off on Tougher Iran Sanctions

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Iran's President-elect Hassan Rohani. Photo: Wikipedia.

A group of liberal Democrat politicians in the US are speaking out against a tough new Iran sanctions bill set to be put to a vote in Congress on Wednesday, Foreign Policy’s Cable Blog reported on Monday.

Reps. Jim McDermott, John Conyers, Keith Ellison and Jim McGovern wrote a letter urging House leadership to delay the vote on the bill which they fear could jeopardize efforts by the Obama Administration to engage Iran’s newly-elected President Hassan Rouhani on the country’s nuclear program.

“We believe that it would be counterproductive and irresponsible to vote on this measure before Iran’s new president is inaugurated on August 4, 2013,” reads the letter. “A diplomatic solution remains the best possible means for ensuring that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon, and the House of Representatives should not preempt a potential opportunity to secure such an outcome with another sanctions bill.”

According to Foreign Policy, an aide for Ellison is currently collecting signatures for the letter with a deadline of Tuesday at noon. “Regardless of whether your boss supports [the bill], it could not come at a worse time,” reads a note by Senior Legislative Assistant Stephen Lassiter. “Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, who campaigned on improving relations with the West, takes office in two weeks.”

While the vote is expected to pass Wednesday, Foreign Policy writes that it may be a more narrow vote than those previously involving Iran’s nuclear program. “That uncertainty stems from a surprisingly successful bipartisan letter signed by nearly a third of the House in June calling for a diplomatic solution to the conflict over Iran’s nuclear program,” writes Foreign Policy.

The dispute highlights the increasingly dissonant approaches to the issue by the White House and the Republican-controlled Congress. President Barack Obama last week eased sanctions on Iran and is planning to engage with Rouhani, who has been hailed by many as a relative moderate, on the nuclear issue in September, while the House wants to continue to hit at Iran’s oil exports and, possibly, its banking sector.

Earlier this month Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu described Rouhani as “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

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  • Kafantaris

    “What has been done through the Security Council is quite adequate and sufficient,” says Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov.
    And he’s right.
    “Any additional sanctions are actually aimed at the economic strangulation of Iran.”
    It’s neither fair nor right for us to do that to the ordinary Iranian people who are already going without.

  • Elliot J. Stamler

    These four are in no way representative of the large number of liberal Democrats in the house. They are well-known critics of Israel and have been for a long time. Ellison and Conyers are black and have long dabbled with anti-Israel elements and Ellison is a Moslem. My representative is about 100% liberal and is a staunch Zionist and always has been. This is NOT a matter of being liberal or not; it is a matter of being anti-Zionist, period.


    Rouhani is a political clergyman and a loyal acolyte of Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader.

    Were that not so, Khamenei would not permit Rouhani to become Iran’s president. Remember: There were 686 registered candidates for the last election. Only eight were allowed to run. Loyalty to the supreme leader and adherence to his ideology/theology were required. Khamenei also made it clear to the finalists that under no circumstances are they to “make concessions to the enemies.”

    Rouhani is different from your run-of-the-mill Iranian jihandist/apparatchik: He speaks our language. He studied in Scotland. He certainly has insights into the peculiar psychology of the Westerner which may explain why, when he served as Iran’s lead nuclear negotiator a decade ago, he consistently ate the lunch of those on the other side of the table.

    Several members of the U.S. House of Representatives claim he “campaigned on the promise to ‘pursue a policy of reconciliation and peace’ and has since promised ‘constructive interaction with the outside world.'”

    Rouhani has said nothing even to suggest that he opposes Iran’s support for terrorism abroad (including past attempts to blow up airplanes and restaurants in the U.S.), gross violations of human rights domestically, threats of genocide against Israelis and, of course, illegal nuclear weapons programs?

    Over the years. Rouhani has stressed that “one of the goals of his nuclear diplomacy was to create a wedge” between the United States and its European allies so that Iran could import nuclear technology without incurring Western penalties. Rouhani has expressed the view that Iran’s strategic interests are best served not by obtaining “a” nuclear weapon but by developing an industrial-size nuclear capability to manufacture dozens of them. Achieving that requires spinning centrifuges and stocking up on enriched uranium until there is enough for “undetectable breakout” — the ability to make weapons-grade uranium (or sufficiently reprocessed plutonium) so quickly that neither U.N. inspectors nor foreign intelligence agencies are aware it’s happening.

    This approach is not new. It was spelled out by Abdollah Ramenzanzadeh, a spokesman for Muhammad Khatami, Iran’s president from 1997-2005. Defending Khatami’s record on the nuclear portfolio in 2008, Ramenzanzadeh said: “We had one overt policy, which was one of negotiation and confidence building, and a covert policy, which was continuation of the activities…” meaning advancing toward a nuclear weapons capability.

    Rouhani’s “moderation” has been stylistic, not substantive. To him “constructive interaction” means persuading the enemy to let down his guard

    We should expect our elected officials to demonstrate skepticism when it comes to “promises” made by an Iranian politician .

    • Lynne T

      Well expressed. If anything, Rouhani’s candidacy is about the faith the Supreme Leader is putting into a president who has wits, guile and tact that Ahmedinjad completely lacked, contributing to Iran’s well-deserved pariah status. Do these “liberal” Democrats even have a clue as to Iran’s role in the massacre currently going on in Syria, let alone the continued carnage in Iraq?

  • Jim NcDermott, John Conners, Jim McGovern are leftists idiots. Keith Ellison is a Muslim. Need I say more on their political reasoning.The new President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani has no intention of changing his countries desire to develop Nuclear weapons. If you think the Iranians are irrational now just wait till they get an atomic bomb in their arsenal.

  • Audrey

    Patricia…..I agree wholeheartedly with your comment.

  • gord

    can any body remember Neville Chamberlain?

  • Patricia

    I’m not surprised by the Democrats. This Administration has put more Muslims inside the Government than we’ve ever had before and we’ve learned to NOT trust anything this Administration does or says to the American people.

    • Every word you wrote is the absolute truth. It needed saying.