Obama’s Iran choice

M.J. Rosenberg writes: An article in Tuesday’s New York Times suggests that there is a method to the madness of the Republican presidential candidates’ hawkish rhetoric on Iran. I had thought that the reason all the Republican candidates (with the exception of Ron Paul) are such noisy warmongers is because that is their natural proclivity – and because it pleases donors (such as Sheldon Adelson, Newt Gingrich’s big campaign funder) who base their political choices on Binyamin Netanyahu’s desires.

But Times reporter Mark Landler suggests that one of the results of this year’s conveniently timed Iran crisis is to present President Barack Obama with a choice of two options, either of which the GOP could successfully exploit to defeat him in the election.

As Landler points out:

In late June, when the campaign is in full swing, Mr Obama will have to decide whether to take action against countries, including some staunch allies, if they continue to buy Iranian oil through its central bank.

After fierce lobbying by the White House, which opposed this hardening in the sanctions that have been its main tool in pressuring Tehran, Congress agreed to modify the legislation to give Mr Obama leeway to delay action if he concludes the clampdown would disrupt the oil market. He may also invoke a waiver to exempt any country from sanctions based on national security considerations.

Under normal circumstances, a president’s decision to invoke a national security waiver on any foreign policy matter is hard to challenge. In this case, the president’s concern that imposing new sanctions would cause oil prices to soar (and disrupt economic recovery) would be good reason to pass on the latest congressional sanctions law.

But the political consequences of waiving could be dire.

Remember, the sanctions law in question is a creation of AIPAC and has been at the top of its agenda during this entire Congress. If Obama waives it, Netanyahu would use the media to make sure that his displeasure was known. The lobby, the Republican presidential candidate and even many of AIPAC’s Democratic cutouts on Capitol Hill would all scream bloody murder. [Continue reading…]

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