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January 27, 2015

Posts in "Iran"

January 20, 2015

Rand Paul’s Message: ‘Do No Harm’ In Foreign Affairs

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., makes his way through the basement of the Capitol before a vote on the Senate floor, December 12, 2014. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Paul will have his own response to the State of the Union address. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Possible 2016 contender Sen. Rand Paul says that the foreign policy potion of his own response to Tuesday’s State of the Union address will focus on an old adage from his medical career: “Do no harm.”

“I think one the biggest things about foreign policy is that you should think before you act, and that’s one of the themes that I’ll have tonight is: First, do no harm. As physicians, we’re taught first to do no harm, which means think through,” the Kentucky Republican said. “You have enormous power as a surgeon. Before you cut into someone, make sure you have the right diagnosis. Try not to make mistakes.”

Paul is issuing his own video response, separate from the official message to be delivered by Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa.

In an interview in his Washington office ahead of the speech by President Barack Obama, Paul used the potential for additional sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program as an example where Congress should avoid doing such harm. Full story

January 16, 2015

Tony Blair Delivers ‘Churchillian’ Speech to Senate, House GOP

Blair testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2009. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Blair testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2009. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair drew three standing ovations when he addressed the joint House-Senate Republican retreat Thursday with a speech that one lawmaker likened to the oratory of Winston Churchill.

Blair’s speech, which was closed to the public and the media, included a call for America to lead on the world stage rather than to try to be loved there, according to a person in attendance. Rep. Tom Cole said Blair focused on the importance of fighting against extremism around the world at an event said to be well attended by members and staffers alike. Full story

January 12, 2015

Power Takes Obama’s Iran Case to Kentucky

(Tom Fougerousse/University of Louisville)

Power is the first Cabinet member to appear with McConnell since he became majority leader. (Tom Fougerousse/University of Louisville)

America’s top diplomat at the United Nations took the Obama administration’s case against enhancing Iran sanctions to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home turf Monday — delivering remarks that sounded like a State of the Union prelude.

Ambassador Samantha Power reiterated the administration’s view that “increasing sanctions would dramatically undermine our efforts” to halt nuclear weapons development by the Iranians in talks, which have been extended through June.

“First, imposing new sanctions now will almost certainly end a negotiations process that has not only frozen the advance of Iran’s nuclear program, but that could lead us to an understanding that would give us confidence in its exclusively peaceful nature. If new sanctions were imposed, Iran would be able to blame the U.S. for sabotaging the negotiations and causing the collapse of the process, and we would lose the chance to peacefully resolve a major national security challenge,” Power said. “Second, … new sanctions will actually likely weaken the sanctions pressure on Iran, by undermining crucial international support for the existing multilateral sanctions on Iran.”

Power’s comments about Iran came when McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, was just steps away. They were part of a wide-ranging foreign policy address sponsored by his namesake McConnell Center on the University of Louisville campus. The Senate majority leader has said bringing additional conditional sanctions against Iran to the Senate floor for a vote is among his early priorities in 2015.

Power became the first Cabinet member to make a public appearance with McConnell since his elevation to majority leader earlier in January.

“Amidst all of this apparent rancor and partisanship, you in the audience might be a bit surprised to see a member of President [Barack] Obama’s cabinet — and the ambassador to the United Nations, no less — down here in Kentucky at the invitation of the new Republican Senate majority leader,” Power said. “You might wonder whether I’m here to pick a fight or walk into an ambush.”

Much of the speech focused not on Capitol Hill partisan battles, but on areas where the two parties have found common ground, from the response to the outbreak of Ebola in Africa to U.S. efforts to support pro-democracy efforts in Myanmar, formerly Burma.

McConnell has long made the situation in Myanmar a priority, and Power praised his work with California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein on sanctions against the repressive military junta that contributed to the country opening up and moving in a pro-democratic direction. But, the progress has been at times tepid.

“That is the challenge we face today: ensuring that Burma builds on the areas in which it has made progress, and avoids backsliding. And we have to be prepared to adapt our strategy to the conditions we observe, including setbacks. We — and when I say we, I am confident Leader McConnell shares this view — we have to examine every tool in our toolkit and ask: How can we take steps that may contribute to empowering the Burmese people and helping the country move towards genuine democratic reform?” Power said. “Our tools include incentivizing continued progress, shining a bright light on the government’s shortcomings, and imposing targeted sanctions on individuals who stand in the way of change.”

In addition to discussing democratic development in Myanmar, Power acknowledged differences of opinion about the Obama administration’s engagement with Cuba.

“Some of the embargo’s staunchest defenders are Democrats and Republicans with deep ties to the island — people whose families came to America fleeing the Castros’ repression. These are men and women who are completely dedicated to doing all they can to ensure that Cubans on the island get to enjoy true freedom. So it is important to acknowledge that while there may be disagreements on the best way to get there, we share a common goal of advancing the rights of the Cuban people,” Power said.

She reiterated the administration’s view that after decades of the embargo against Cuba failing to bring about the desired outcome, it was time to change the strategy.

“The changes President Obama announced take away the Castros’ most trusted alibi for abuse, helping empower the Cuban people to secure the greater freedoms they want and deserve,” she said. “The change in policy also denies repressive governments in the region the ability to continue cynically to use our Cuba policy to deflect attention from their own abuses, such as Ecuador’s crackdown on the press, or Venezuela’s imprisonment of key opposition leaders.”

Related:

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

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December 27, 2014

Graham Says Iran Sanctions Vote Will Come in January (Video)

Graham, R-S.C., speaks during a news conference on Wednesday, March 26, 2014, on legislation that would restore "the long-standing interpretation of the 'Wire Act'" and would reverse the Justice Department's 2011 decision expand online gaming. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Graham: Iran will be a top priority in the new Congress. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Lindsey Graham said Saturday that a vote on legislation providing for more stringent conditional sanctions against Iran would be among the first items of business for the 114th Congress.

The South Carolina Republican made his comments during a joint appearance Saturday in Israel with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I’m here to tell you, Mr. Prime Minister, that the Congress will follow your lead. In January of next year, there will be a vote on the Kirk-Menendez bill, bipartisan sanction legislation that says, if Iran walks away from the table, sanctions will be re-imposed; if Iran cheats regarding any deal that we enter to the Iranians, sanctions will be re-imposed,” Graham said, according to an official transcript. “It is important to let the Iranians know that from an American point of view, sanctions are alive and well. So we will be following your counsel and advice. Congress will pursue sanctions for the bigger.”

Full story

December 9, 2014

Watch: John Kerry Testifies on ISIS War

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The Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds a 2 p.m. hearing on an Authorization for the Use of Military Force in the United States’ war against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Secretary of State John Kerry will testify.

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.

November 24, 2014

Republicans Push for More Iran Sanctions as Talks are Extended

Ayotte, McCain and Graham (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Ayotte, McCain and Graham likely to pursue tighter sanctions on Iran. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Monday’s seven-month extension of talks about the Iranian nuclear program make it very likely the Senate will vote on strengthening sanctions against Iran in the first part of 2015.

Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican who will be majority leader next year, signaled that just two days before Election Day.

“I think what we ought to do if we can’t get an acceptable agreement with the Iranians is tighten the sanctions, and in fact we had a bill in the Senate to do that, which the current majority leader wouldn’t allow a vote on,” McConnell told reporters in Kentucky at the time. “Not to stop the talks, but to say at the end of the talks, if there’s no good outcome, then the Iranians would get tougher sanctions.”

Full story

November 12, 2014

New Senate Republican Majority Wants Say in Iran Nuclear Deal

Corker, R-Tenn., listens to other senators during the news conference on Ukraine on Wednesday, April 30, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Any nuclear deal with Iran needs to be approved by the Senate, Corker said. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republicans are gearing up to try to force President Barack Obama to give Congress veto power over an agreement about nuclear weapons with Iran.

The expected chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee signaled Wednesday that getting a say in any such deal will be a priority of GOP senators when they take over next year.

“Nov. 24 is going to be the time frame which we’ll know more clearly whether there’s going to be an extension or something has actually been reached. But I would imagine that regardless … there will be a desire very quickly after the first of the year for Congress to weigh in on the topic in some form or fashion,” Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told reporters. “Whether it’s ensuring, you know, that Congress has a vote in final outcome or some other way, my sense is that there’ll be a move pretty quickly to speak to that legislatively.”

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 9:32 p.m.
Iran, Policy, Syria

October 30, 2014

The Attack Ads Harry Reid Didn’t Want You to See

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Harry Reid’s strategy of blocking amendments all year was intended with one clear objective in mind — protecting his majority.

Republicans have complained vociferously about the Senate majority leader shutting down amendments — but behind the scenes, the Nevada Democrat’s senators asked him to do so for a very simple reason: Nobody wants to give an opponent fodder for 30-second ads in a tough election year.

Reid’s strategy had a downside, because Democrats had fewer opportunities to show their independence from an unpopular president.

But aside from that attack, Republicans have been left mostly to mine earlier votes from, for instance, the 2013 budget resolution vote-a-rama — or for parts of the Affordable Care Act they voted for years ago.

Here are some of the subjects — and TV attack lines — Reid’s strategy sought to avoid: Full story

July 18, 2014

Mark Kirk Says Obama Iran Policy is Path to Nuclear War (Video)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Mark S. Kirk said in a jarring video circulated late Friday that President Barack Obama’s Iran policy is leading to nuclear war.

The video, posted on Youtube and available through the Illinois Republican’s official website, features a background of a “60 Minutes”-style ticking clock and highlights news reports about the state of the negotiations between the international community and Iran on nuclear programs.

“The administration policy is the quickest policy that leads to war, nuclear war. That is a horrible fate to condemn American children to witness,” Kirk said in the video.

Full story

March 18, 2014

83 Senators Send Iran Letter to Obama

A toughly worded letter to President Barack Obama on the Iran nuclear negotiations signed by 83 senators lays out principles for any agreement and warns of tough new sanctions on Iran if the talks fail.

“We must signal unequivocally to Iran that rejecting negotiations and continuing its nuclear weapon program will lead to much more dramatic sanctions, including further limitations on Iran’s exports of crude oil and petroleum products,” the letter states.

The letter was led by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., Mark S. Kirk, R-Ill., Chris Coons, D-Del., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.

Here’s the letter (those who signed at the bottom): Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 1:32 p.m.
Iran

March 6, 2014

Ukraine Bill Could Attract Amendments on Iran Sanctions, Natural Gas Exports

John Thune

Thune said an aid package for Ukraine could draw amendments related to Iran. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Some Senate Republicans said the upcoming aid package for Ukraine could draw an amendment adding sanctions on Iran, although others cautioned against that approach.

“It could be,” Republican Conference Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., said when asked if such an amendment would come up. “I am sure there will be some interest.” Full story

February 25, 2014

Senate GOP Renews Iran Sanctions Push

Senate Democrats and Republicans are headed for a showdown over imposing new sanctions on Iran.

The Senate began debate on a veterans bill Tuesday afternoon which would improve health care and dental care, expand educational opportunities and help the Department of Veterans Affairs address a disability claims backlog.

Democrats expected the bill sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to have bipartisan support, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that Republicans would seek to get a vote on an alternate veterans bill, sponsored by Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., that includes a provision on additional Iran sanctions. Full story

February 2, 2014

Hillary Clinton Backs Obama Against Iran Sanctions Push

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton strongly backs the Obama administration view opposing new Iran sanctions for now in a letter released by Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin Sunday.

“At this moment it is of particular importance that our government’s efforts work in coordination, not at cross-purposes. We should give anyone watching from Tehran no reason to doubt America’s unity and resolve,” Clinton wrote. “And should Iran fail to provide adequate assurances to the international community and undertake commitments to ensure it will not and cannot produce a nuclear weapon, then the legislative and executive branches will move with speed and unity, backed by America’s allies to institute even tougher sanctions.”

Full story

January 16, 2014

As Obama Presses Senate, Reid Holds Cards Close on Iran

President Barack Obama and his administration are engaged in an all-out press to get the Senate to back off a new round of Iran sanctions which they believe risk unraveling talks and could even prompt war — including a personal appeal to Senate Democrats on Wednesday night.

So far, the White House efforts appear to be holding the line, although Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., continues to hold his cards close to the vest on when, or whether, he might allow a vote on the bipartisan bill by Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Mark S. Kirk, R-Ill., that had been heading toward a veto-proof majority. Full story

January 14, 2014

Reid Continues to Hold Off on Iran Sanctions

Reid speaks with the media after the Democratic senate luncheon in the Capitol. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Reid speaks with the media after the Democratic Senate luncheon in the Capitol. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., still isn’t budging on allowing votes on new Iran sanctions, despite bipartisan support.

“The one message the Iranians should [take] is that we are not going to allow them to get nuclear weapons,” Reid said, adding that chairmen of the committees of jurisdiction have told him to hold off on any action while talks continue toward a diplomatic solution. Full story

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