New bipartisan letter to White House: "sanctions relief for Iran requires Congressional action"


Reps. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY) - respectively the chairman and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee - on Tuesday released the text of a bipartisan letter that they indicated would soon be sent to President Barack Obama "noting that Congress played a central role in enacting sanctions against Iran and informing him that any long-term sanctions relief for Iran requires Congressional action," the latest in what has become a back-and-forth between the White House and Congress over the degree to which lawmakers should be involved in the implementation of any agreement between Washington and Iran over the latter's atomic program. The letter - which echoes a similar one sent by senators in February - will among other things take note of testimony given by Secretary of State John Kerry declaring that the administration "would be obligated... under the law" to come to Congress in order to unwind sanctions. The Hill picked out portions of the letter that emphasized that "most U.S. sanctions are intertwined with Iran’s other actions... includ[ing] its ballistic missile program, its nonconventional weapons program and its support for international terrorism" and that "this detail... will require 'extensive engagement' and approval from Congress." The White House is thought to have explored options under which President Obama could unilaterally lift sanctions on Iran in the context of an agreement with Tehran. There is a strain of journalism that has emerged in recent weeks justifying such moves - and at least one report [PDF] that envisioned a complicated process by which some sanctions expired, some sanctions were vetoed, and some sanctions were left unenforced - but even D.C. lobbies accused of peddling regime propaganda have conceded that such scenarios are unworkable. A few weeks ago a bipartisan group of veteran diplomats and analysts – Eric Edelman, Dennis Ross, and Ray Takeyh, respectively a former undersecretary of defense during the George W. Bush administration, a special assistant to President Obama, and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations – made the same point.


The Daily Star reported Monday that new batches of Hezbollah fighters were preparing to deploy into Syria as Iraqi Shiite militias - which had been battling on behalf of Syria's Bashar al-Assad regime - were recalled back across the Syrian-Iraqi border to battle the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Details on the redeployments had first begun to emerge last week, as the Al Qaeda offshoot began a lightning offensive across Iraq. A rebel fighter speaking to the International Business Times noted earlier this week that “Hezbollah is fast stepping in” to fill the vacuum left by the Iraqi forces. In response to reports of a growing Sunni alliance across the region, Hezbollah has reportedly set up a military operations center and has mobilized at least 30,000 fighters who, according to the Daily Star, “have been fully readied for any military move.”


Journalists on Wednesday worried that last week’s abduction of three Israeli teenagers risks triggering a full-blown conflict in the region. American, Israeli, and Fatah figures have all emphasized indications linking Hamas to the abductions. Veteran Arab affairs journalist Avi Issacharoff on Wednesday conveyed sentiments that Gaza residents are preparing for a military conflict with the Jewish state in a Times of Israel article headlined “As IDF sweeps West Bank, Gaza residents prepare for war.” Attention this week is turning to a May speech given in Qatar by Khaled Meshaal, in which the Hamas political chief read out a letter from a Hamas prisoner and said that a response to the prisoner’s difficulties “will be provided by Iz al-Din al-Qassam,” the terror group’s military wing. Senior Israeli security sources have indicated that Hamas cells in the West Bank may have interpreted Meshaal’s speech as a call to kidnap Israelis. Meanwhile, militants in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip have for five consecutive nights launched rockets into Israel, raising concerns that the Iran-backed group is pulling Jerusalem into conflict. Sustained rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel was last seen ahead of the November 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense, during which time Israeli forces severely degraded Hamas’s command and control infrastructure and its arsenal.


US pharmaceutical giant Merck (MSD) recently signed a cooperation agreement with the Chief Scientist of Israel, a deal which will boost Israeli life sciences companies and offer collaboration on joint technology projects. The Chief Scientist will assist Merck in identifying Israeli companies that are ripe for collaboration then grant financial support for the R&D needed for the joint project. Merck will match the government’s financing either towards a financial investment in the company, or towards equipment development. The intended result is that Merck will boost the Israeli economy and open more marketing channels overseas for Israeli companies. “MSD is the third global pharmaceutical manufacturer to join the OCS’ global enterprise R&D cooperation program. Collaboration with MSD as well as other pharmaceutical corporations provides the opportunity to initiate further joint projects within the life sciences industry. These collaborations allow Israeli companies to conduct groundbreaking research and development that would not otherwise be possible, in addition to providing the industry in Israel with the opportunity to address the many challenges that exist in the field as well as establishing its place in the global market,” said Avi Hasson, Chief Scientist of Israel. The Chief Scientist has other agreements with the likes of Intel, IBM, Oracle, GE, Deutsche Telekom, 3M, BD and Finmeccanica. (via Israel21c)

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