As Russia seems poised to extend its land grab into eastern Ukraine, Vladimir Putin is also edging toward a deal with Iran that would make a mockery of the P5+1 interim agreement with Iran. News reports confirm that “Russia could exchange nonmonetary goods for up to 500,000 barrels of Iranian petroleum each day under the possible arrangement, which may ultimately pave the way for as much as $20 billion in trade, insiders told [Reuters] for a Wednesday report.” Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a sanctions guru, is quoted as saying, “If Washington can’t stop this deal, it could serve as a signal to other countries that the United States won’t risk major diplomatic disputes at the expense of the sanctions regime.” Even the State Department acknowledges that the deal would violate the interim deal.
The president so far has kept the Senate at bay and deployed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to bottle up sanctions designed to punish Iran in the event that it violates the deal. The recent reports prompted Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) to write to President Obama on Monday telling him, “If Iran moves forward with this effort to evade U.S. sanctions and violate the terms of oil sanctions relief provided for in JPA, the United States should respond by re-instating the crude oil sanctions, rigorously enforcing significant reductions in global purchases of Iranian crude oil, and sanctioning any violations to the fullest extent of the law.” They ask the president to “put Iran on notice that United States is prepared to re-instate these sanctions should Iran attempt to evade our sanctions and violate the terms of the JPA.”
But is the administration prepared to do this — or will the White House once again deploy Reid to provide cover for negotiations that are no less fruitless than the collapsed “peace process”? A pro-Israel advocate tells Right Turn, “If this deal is realized, we should come down like a ton of bricks with sanctions on Russia and the entities involved and it would very seriously call into question Russia’s commitment to a nuclear agreement.”
To be sure, pressure on Democrats to cease their obstructionism and allow a vote on new sanctions will become intense if the oil deal is completed. The administration has made every effort to disguise the lack of process in Geneva with bland assurances that the parties are discussing the major points, dealing in substance, working through the issues, etc. Truth be told, we have seen no evidence that Iran will voluntarily dismantle its illicit nuclear program. To the contrary, Iran’s public statements insisting that it will not give up its enrichment program, this financial deal and its appointment of a terrorist as its United Nations ambassador confirm that the leopard has not changed its spots. It is using the talks to obtain relief from sanctions and prevent military action against its nuclear weapons facilities. It is working — so far.
Whether this particular deal with Russia is completed, the Senate should be aware that Iran’s economy is struggling to its feet, thereby removing the only real leverage the West has to pressure its compliance with the West’s demands. Even if the president and his secretary of state have not yet come to their senses, the Senate should be getting a wake-up call. The talks are a farce allowing Iran to buy time. Absent a miraculous final agreement by the July deadline for Iran to give up its enrichment program, the Senate will need to act.