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More Iran Sanctions: Leverage, Or ‘A Path To War’?

As a new nuclear deal goes into effect with Iran, a growing number of US Senators call for still tougher sanctions. The White House says that’s the path to war.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, center, arrives at the 27th International Islamic Unity Conference in Tehran, Iran, Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. (AP)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, center, arrives at the 27th International Islamic Unity Conference in Tehran, Iran, Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. (AP)

Two big messages coming out of Washington right now on Iran.  One, from the White House, welcoming an interim nuclear deal that, as of today, has started the suspension of Iran’s most advanced nuclear enrichment.  And one from Capitol Hill, where a big contingent has now signed on to even harsher sanctions on Iran.  The White House says it’s finally found a narrow path to a real nuclear deal.  Congressional critics say they don’t believe it.  They want more sanctions.  The White says that is the path to war.  This hour On Point:  Deal or no deal with Iran, and the warning of a path to war.

– Tom Ashbrook


Robin Wright, journalist and author, distinguished scholar at the United States Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson International Center. Author of “Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World,” “The Iran Primer: Power Politics and U.S. Policy” and “The Islamists are Coming: Who They Really Are.” (@wrightr)

Peter Beinart, contributing editor at The Atlantic and The National Journal. Senior columnist, Haaretz.com. Associate professor of journalism and political science at the City University of New York. Author of “The Crisis Of Zionism,” “The Good Fight: Why Liberals — And Only Liberals — Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again” and “The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris.” (@PeterBeinart)

Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Co-chair of the project on U.S. Middle east Non-Proliferation Strategy. Co-author of nine studies on economic sanctions against Iran. (@dubo1968)

From Tom’s Reading List

TIME: A New Beginning In Tehran — “Since President Hassan Rouhani’s upset victory in last summer’s election, Iran has been consumed with a strategic recalibration. The signing of the short-term nuclear deal in November, which diplomats will spend the next six months trying to turn into an enduring pact, generated tangible change in Iran’s relations with the world. And among ordinary Iranians, it’s no longer off-limits to talk openly about eventual reconciliation with a country long known as the Great Satan.”

Haaretz: U.S. Senate sanctions bill is all about torpedoing a nuclear deal with Iran — “Even if a reasonable time frame were specified, there’s a bigger problem. By insisting that Obama certify an end to Iranian missile tests and support for terrorism, Menendez and company are insisting that a final deal cover subjects it was never meant to cover. The interim agreement makes clear that the sole goal of current negotiations is to “ensure [that] Iran’s nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful.”

Wall Street Journal: A Bad Agreement Likely to Get Worse — “In the absence of verifiable Iranian commitments not to proceed with nuclear-weapon and ballistic-missile research, there is nothing to stop Iran from having a designed bomb and ballistic missile ready to go. Once Iran completes a dash to weapons-grade uranium, it can insert the warhead and quickly have a deliverable nuclear weapon.”

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  • Ed75

    I hope we can get in the March for Life in Washington on the 22nd before things fall apart. There will be 500,000+ people, the media won’t cover it.

    • TFRX

      Heads up, wimmenfolk: With half a million “Right to lifers” converging on DC, Jan 22nd is the red letter day!

      Plan now to go to your local real-health clinic to see your doctor without the harrassment, anthrax, bombing threats, assaults, death threats, surgeon shootings, and other niceites the “hard core right” brings you.

  • Ray in VT

    I am hopeful that some progress can be made on the Iranian nuclear issue via this process, although I think that we should be prepared to take sanctions actions against the Iranians if they do not live up to their obligations.

  • Fiscally_Responsible

    I hope that U.N. inspectors are actually allowed to go wherever they need to in order to conduct inspections/etc. in order to verify that Iran has agreed to do in any agreement that is reached. The last time I checked, we were still “the great Satan”.

  • Coastghost

    Oh good: by the end of July 2014, we’ll know whether we’ll be going to war with Iran by the end of August 2014. Stay tuned.

  • stephenreal

    I can live with an Iranian nuke
    but can Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the gulf Arabs live it?

    Iran is in deep political flux. And the new man on the helm appears to be working both sides of the Tehranian political spectrum on the path to peace. Hard to tell

  • nlpnt

    More sanctions would not increase US leverage, it would ONLY drive the Iranians away from the negotiating table.

    Senators, whatever happened to “politics stops at the water’s edge”?

  • stephenreal

    Tehran can be toppled from within.
    We can help that process along if we think this one through

    • spiral007

      didn’t we do that once before and look what it got us!!! we need to get out of this business of toppling governments, however, tempting. The consequences are usually not what we desire, Iraq comes to mind….!!!

  • Coastghost

    If Obama and Kerry cannot stay the Senate’s hand, Obama’s “leadership” is further weakened with the help of a Democratic Senate. Can any of us think that the Senate would vote to undermine Obama in an election year? How else could 2014 politicking affect the outcome(s) here?

  • stephenreal

    I have no problem with threats of sanctions.
    No one has pulled the trigger yet.
    No need to go squishy on Tehran yet.

  • BHA_in_Vermont

    I am appalled at the war mongers who think that slapping someone who is coming closer will entice them to come yet closer.

    “The beatings will continue until morale improves”

    I’m sure those same people would fund a massive weapon buildup if put in the same position as they want to place the Iranians.

  • stephenreal

    What is the average age in Tehran again?

    CIA World Factbook puts it around 25.
    the factbook is a great goto resource

    These are very young people we are dealing with. We can win any propaganda war. We do have MTV and they don’t. Did not I hear they just got Facebook?

  • Joachim110

    I wish we would stop to assure Israel always of America’s unlimited backing. Israel is always in the front of warmongering and big mouthing because of this unlimited backing. Why are we still financing Israel driven by this hard line jewish lobby that always is quick in judging others but never respects international laws when it comes to its own nasty politics.

    • stephenreal

      it’s the only government run by the people in the Middle East.
      Are listening to any of this talk dude?

      • Ray in VT

        That and Turkey.

        • stephenreal

          Turkey is cool. I hear the shopping is hip. One day I would like to visit.
          it may be the only Muslim country I would actually feel safe in.

          Turkey is more European. They want in on the EU real bad.

          • Ray in VT

            There are quite a few cultural treasures that my wife and I would love to visit in the Near East, but safety is a concern. Turkey does largely seem to be an exception in the region.

      • BHA_in_Vermont

        Even if true – is that a reason to back them unconditionally? We invaded Iraq when Hussein didn’t conform to UN resolutions to give up WMD he didn’t have yet we have done nothing to Israel and they have been ignoring UN resolutions for 45+ years.

        One example: They continue to build in the West Bank, land that they should have returned to the Palestinians decades ago. “tsk, tsk” we say and the building continues.

    • William

      Israel does not attack unless they are attacked.

      • stephenreal

        except for Syria, Iraq and Lebanon…etc

      • Joachim110

        And of course keeping the Palestinians in degrading conditions and imprisonment

        • stephenreal

          no one works harder against themselves then the Arabs,
          especially the Palestinians

          • Joachim110

            Comments like yours are not helpful to understand the problem

        • William

          The Palestinians bring trouble upon themselves. Put down the bombs and rifles and live in peace with Israel is the way to go for them.

          • Joachim110

            I think you need to learn a bit more about what Israel does to them, restricting there own daily life and taking all prospect of life away. I would probably take up arms if they would do this to me or my family.

          • BHA_in_Vermont

            To a point. Yes, Hamas needs to stop sending rockets into southern Israel from Gaza. But doing so would not stop the Israelis building in the illegal West Bank settlements, it would not return the land taken in the 1967 war as required by the UN. Israel would not say “OK, you stopped attacking, we’ll do what we should have done 45 years ago”.

      • Alchemical Reaction

        Except for the time they stole an entire nation and said, “because god said so.”

  • stephenreal

    no one does foreign politics better then Tom Ashbrook and his team.

    One day I want to hear what India is up too. I feel disconnected Mr. Ashbrook. A lot of change in Delhi lately.

  • johnalene

    You ask “Who would want us to go to war against Iran?”
    During the 2008 Republican primary, Sheldon Adelson offered tens of millions to whichever candidate would go in that direction. He has hundreds of millions to enable him to buy senators, and I suspect that is a major factor in the current senatorial drive.

    • stephenreal

      conspiracy theories so soon? that strikes me as weird.

  • daravl

    I support the movement toward peace! Going deeper, perhaps now is finally the time for opposing Islamic sects (Suni, Shia) and opposing religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) to wake up, grow up, forgive the violence of the past, and unify under the peaceful wisdom of their profits who ALL called for respecting all peoples and religions; for seeking knowledge and understanding; for nurturing peace not war…

  • njcs

    it’s all about Israel, a democratic state of Jewish ONLY.

    • stephenreal

      going to stupid on full speed. so soon?

  • John_Hamilton

    There must be a journalist somewhere who is able to trace the money behind a bill in our bought congress to pave the way for attacking “Iran.” An interested journalist would also be able to look at the funding behind the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the project on U.S. Middle east Non-Proliferation Strategy.

    This is in the realm of no-brainer. “Israel” wants an attack on “Iran,” and wants the “U.S.” to do it. If not us, then them, with our money and blessing. There is no great mystery here, just the information a responsible free press is supposed to publish.

    That information could have been given on this show. On Point is a journalistic entity. The subject of this new bill has been raised in a journalistic discussion, but the funding behind it hasn’t. No bill gets submitted without financial backing. It is the elephant in the room, but no one mentioned it.

    Maybe a discussion of the funding would have been beyond show business constraints. I can’t think of another reason. Our bought Congress is apparently a topic beyond the bounds of thinkable thought, at least in regard to how that boughtness translates into legislation. And war.

    • spiral007

      It is not only our bought congress, it is the ‘bought’ media. Notice neither Tom nor any of his guests touched the subject of Israel having nuclear weapons (when a caller brought it up). Just skipped over. Here we are going into a tizzy over a country that does not have nuclear weapons and says it is not pursuing them, nor is there any OBJECTIVE evidence to support the assertion that Iran is developing weapons (nuclear); but on the other hand our independent media refuses to touch the question of Israeli nuclear weapons!!

    • Dennis Nolan

      Take a look at the “experts” that populate the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. These same people were the loudest advocates for the invasion of Iraq eleven years ago. Their rosy predictions proved mostly illusory. And here they are again. See if you can find out how many of them have dual citizenships.

      • John_Hamilton

        I looked. Pretty amazing. I also did a Google of their funding and found this: thinkprogress.org/security/2011/07/19/271431/fdd-donors/

        I would like to see a study by someone in academia of the psychology of shameless war-mongering. I suppose it could be broadened to “right-wing” fanaticism. I’ve known a number of fanatics in my life, and I have found that they are like icebergs. What you see is a very small part of what they are about. It is 99+% ego, very close to the surface, but masked with posturing about some phony threat.
        Will we see this discussed on OnPoint? Not likely.

  • alsordi

    The US economy and the US dollar cannot survive without perpetual war.

  • Dennis Nolan

    Clifford May? Go back and see what he had to say about the invasion of Iraq. Hardly a credible source.

  • marygrav

    AIPAC mony is working in Congress. But we should beware that that same Neocons that got US to invade Iraq are still working and active. Bewore of Neo-conservatives organizations like the Defense of Democracies. It is only a Neocons front organization.
    The only democracy that needs defening is OUR OWN.

  • marygrav

    Gates was taling about AIPAC & the other Lobbys.

  • brettearle

    I would think that Iran would retaliate via covert action, in Iraq; via Hezbollah, against Israel, over the border from Lebanon; or, finally, a direct hit at Tel Aviv, if Israel’s attack is not restrained or measured.

    Striking US installations would only cinch bringing the US into the fray, in any case. And if the US were going to actually provide logistical support or possibly offer direct military assistance–such a strike by Iran would only embolden the US to strike even sooner.

    Can I assume that the Aviation site would be tied to any Aircraft Carriers coming into the area?

    • Ward Cornett

      You assume correctly. However, they had earlier withdrawn from that area because of sequestration. Bahrain is also headquarters for the 5th Naval Fleet, a long standing base of about 6200 sailors and some Marines. The aviation unit is run out of the commercial airport. thanks for your comments.

      • brettearle

        You’re welcome.

        Nevertheless, the area and the Bases would likely be intriguing places to visit.

        I’ll bet your daughter is going to be safe.

  • Alchemical Reaction

    What about all the nukes Iran has that they didn’t manufacture themselves??????

  • Lusitan75

    Intentionally or not, the lesson that the U.S. has taught every current and future despot / thug regime is that once you possess nuclear weapons / WMD, you are immune from military attack or regime change warfare from the U.S. no matter how brutal you are (see, e.g., North Korea); but if you refrain from developing nuclear weapons and later do anything that makes you an inconvenience, you can and will be deposed and likely killed (see, e.g., Iraq, Libya).

    I don’t think that adding Iran to the growing list of nations that possess nuclear weapons is a good thing, if for nothing more than the reason that the greater distribution of nuclear weapons inevitably raises the risk of nuclear weapon use. But we need to prepare ourselves for the inevitable reality that Iran will have nuclear weapons, because our leaders have proven incapable of taking decisive action to stop it, and have clumsily convinced the rest of the world that nuclear weapons are the only way to ensure the U.S. leaves you alone.

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