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April 2, 2015

Posts in "Foreign Policy"

March 19, 2015

Obama Calls Netanyahu as White House Eyes U.N. Shift (Updated)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 5:36 p.m. | The United States may no longer be Israel’s protector at the United Nations, Press Secretary Josh Earnest indicated Thursday.

After Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pre-election comments disavowing a two-state solution and decrying Arab voters during the election, the White House is actively re-evaluating its past actions on behalf of Israel at the U.N. and elsewhere, Earnest said. He didn’t go into specifics, such as whether the United States would back a resolution recognizing Palestine as a state. But the implied threat of that kind of action is clear. Full story

March 9, 2015

White House Calls Out GOP on War With Iran (Video)

Congressional Republicans are in “a rush to war” with Iran, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday.

But after using the phrase “rush to war,” Earnest caught himself.

“The rush to war, or at least the rush to the military option, that many Republicans are advocating is not at all in the best interest of the United States,” Earnest said as he blasted the latest move by Senate Republicans to interject themselves into the critical talks with Iran about its nuclear program by sending an open letter to the regime.

From the White House’s perspective, the Republican Party is effectively taking a war-first approach to foreign policy. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 3:45 p.m.
Iran

February 9, 2015

Obama Riffs on Netanyahu, Iran, NSA, Ukraine (Updated)

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News)

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News)

Updated 2:04 p.m. | President Barack Obama zinged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly at a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Monday.

The press corps chuckled when Obama suggested Merkel wouldn’t have been a part of trying to get a meeting two weeks before her election, a nod to the timing of Netanyahu’s speech to Congress later this year.

“As much as I love Angela, if she was two weeks away from an election, she probably would not have received an invitation to the White House, and I suspect she wouldn’t have asked for one,” Obama said, getting a smile out of Merkel.

Full story

January 27, 2015

Obama’s Big Win on Iran Sanctions (Updated)

Menendez (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Menendez (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 12:34 p.m. | Make that one more veto threat President Barack Obama probably won’t have to carry out: Senate Democrats are abandoning efforts to pass an Iran sanctions bill over its nuclear program while talks continue, at least until March 24.

Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey announced during a Senate hearing Tuesday that he and other Senate Democrats would not support bringing the sanctions bill he cosponsored to the floor until that date. It comes after Menendez, in particular, has been harshly critical of the White House and the president for their handling of the Iran talks, and amid a brouhaha over the decision by Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, to snub the president and invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to the Congress without a prior heads-up to the White House.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Democrat, Menendez, and eight other Democrats on Tuesday wrote Obama vowing not to vote for the sanctions bill before March 24 (full letter below).

The date gives Obama the breathing room he wanted, while keeping the active threat of additional sanctions on Iran if their government fails to reach a deal.

Obama has denounced the bill in very forceful terms, both in his State of the Union address and in a press conference, vowing to veto it and saying there was a high risk it would scuttle the talks and let Iran blame the United States for doing so. That, Obama said, would undermine the strong international coalition, including Russia and China, which is negotiating with Iran to prevent it from getting a nuclear weapon.

Here’s the full letter:

Dear Mr. President:

We remain hopeful that diplomacy will succeed in reversing Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon capability, in accordance with the timeline that the P5+1 and Iran negotiating teams have set for themselves: March 24, 2015 for a political framework agreement and June 30, 2015 to conclude negotiations on the technical annexes of the comprehensive deal.

Congress has always been a partner in the shared goal of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon capability. We remain appreciative of your leadership in seeking to protect the United States, and our allies and partners, from the threat of a nuclear Iran. For more than two decades, the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. Government have worked together in a bipartisan way to implement sanctions legislation that successfully ratcheted up pressure on Iran’s nuclear program. This pressure proved to be decisive in compelling Iranian leadership to enter the latest round of nuclear negotiations in September 2013.

We remain deeply skeptical that Iran is committed to making the concessions required to demonstrate to the world that its nuclear program is exclusively peaceful by March 24 – the deadline agreed upon for a political framework agreement. Considering Iran’s history in nuclear negotiations and after two extensions of the Joint Plan of Action, we are concerned that Iran is intentionally extending the negotiations to improve its leverage at the negotiating table.

We are Democratic supporters of the Iran Nuclear Weapon Free Act of 2015 – a bill that would impose sanctions on Iran only if Iran fails to reach a comprehensive agreement by the June 30 deadline. This bill also includes monthly waivers after June 30 to provide additional negotiating flexibility. We believe that this bill, as introduced, is reasonable and pragmatic, respects the nuclear negotiating timeline, and sends a strong signal to Iran and to the international community that endless negotiations under the interim agreement are dangerous, unacceptable, and could leave Iran with a threshold nuclear weapon capability.

In acknowledgement of your concern regarding congressional action on legislation at this moment, we will not vote for this legislation on the Senate floor before March 24. After March 24, we will only vote for this legislation on the Senate floor if Iran fails to reach agreement on a political framework that addresses all parameters of a comprehensive agreement. This deadline is the critical test of Iranian intentions. We expect that your Administration will consult closely with Members of Congress in the coming months, and look forward to working with you to achieve our shared goal of reversing Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon capability.

Sincerely,

Robert Menendez
United States Senator

Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator

Richard Blumenthal
United States Senator

Gary C. Peters
United States Senator

Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator

Benjamin L. Cardin
United States Senator

Christopher A. Coons
United States Senator

Joe Manchin III
United States Senator

Joe Donnelly
United States Senator

Debbie Stabenow
United States Senator

Rachel Oswald contributed to this report.

Related:

Backed by Cameron, Obama Warns Congress on Iran

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

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By Steven Dennis Posted at 11:29 a.m.
Foreign Policy, Iran

January 20, 2015

Excerpts From Obama’s State of the Union Address

(Larry Downing/Reuters File Photo)

(Larry Downing/Reuters File Photo)

The following is a transcript of excerpts of President Barack Obama’s Jan. 20 State of the Union address:

“We are fifteen years into this new century. Fifteen years that dawned with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with a new generation fighting two long and costly wars; that saw a vicious recession spread across our nation and the world. It has been, and still is, a hard time for many.

But tonight, we turn the page.” Full story

January 16, 2015

Backed by Cameron, Obama Warns Congress on Iran

(Mark Wilson/Getty Images News)

(Mark Wilson/Getty Images News)

A day after privately telling Senate Democrats he would veto a new Iran sanctions bill, President Barack Obama scolded Congress to cool it, and if they don’t, he’ll take his case to the public.

Obama said new sanctions legislation — even if the sanctions are tied to the failure of talks — would result in a “very high” risk of collapsing the talks and undermining the international coalition that has brought Iran to the table. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 2:22 p.m.
Iran

December 17, 2014

White House Releases Cuba Deal Fact Sheet

The White House has released a fact sheet on President Barack Obama’s sweeping new deal to open up Cuba, which has sharply split Congress.

Here it is:

Fact Sheet: Charting a New Course on Cuba

Today, the United States is taking historic steps to chart a new course in our relations with Cuba and to further engage and empower the Cuban people. We are separated by 90 miles of water, but brought together through the relationships between the two million Cubans and Americans of Cuban descent that live in the United States, and the 11 million Cubans who share similar hopes for a more positive future for Cuba. Full story

Obama’s Cuba Deal Splits Congress

Alan Gross' wife Judy Gross spoke at a press conference in 2012 in the Capitol calling for Cuba to release her husband. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo).

Alan Gross’ wife, Judy, spoke at a news conference in 2012 in the Capitol calling for Cuba to release her husband. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

President Barack Obama’s deal with Cuba, which he will announce at noon, drew praise and sharp criticism on Capitol Hill as the details started to leak out.

Lawmakers cheered the news that Alan Gross had been released from Cuban custody, as the American aid worker headed home — but the deal also prompted sharp complaints.

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., the outgoing chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, torched the deal. Full story

By Steven Dennis and Niels Lesniewski Posted at 10:49 a.m.
Cuba

December 3, 2014

‘Looser’ Obama Riffs on Taxes, Trade, Regulations, Immigration, GOP

From left: Deutsche Bank Chief executive Jacques Brand, President and CEO of Convergys Andrea Ayers, President and CEO of Dell Michael Dell (3L), listen to U.S. President Barack Obama at the quarterly meeting of the Business Roundtable. (Getty Images News)

From left: Deutsche Bank Chief executive Jacques Brand, President and CEO of Convergys Andrea Ayers, President and CEO of Dell Michael Dell, listen to President Barack Obama at the quarterly meeting of the Business Roundtable. (Getty Images News)

President Barack Obama is starting to open up, six years into the job.

“You get a little looser in your last two years in office,” he told CEOs at a meeting with the Business Roundtable.

Indeed, the remark itself would never have been made public under the old White House policy of kicking out the press for the all-important Q&As the president regularly has with business leaders and donors. Full story

October 30, 2014

Democrat Wants Obama to Stop the ‘Chickenshit’ Sideshows

Cardin isn't happy with the anonymous insults about Israel's leader from Obama administration officials. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Cardin isn’t happy with the anonymous insults about Netanyahu from Obama administration officials. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The “chickenshit” continues to hit the fan in Congress. A senior Democratic senator wants President Barack Obama to hold whoever anonymously insulted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accountable.

“The only parties that benefit from anonymous sources making inappropriate comments about one of America’s closest allies are those who want to weaken the unified, bipartisan support for Israel in both the legislative and executive branches of our government,” said Maryland Senator Ben Cardin of the anonymous quotes published by The Atlantic. “The leaks and side-shows need to end; those responsible should be held accountable.” Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 2:52 p.m.
Israel

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