Americans for Peace Now’s Lara Friedman reports that an Iran sanctions bill looks likely to pass sooner rather than later:
Today, at around noon, Senate leadership hotlined the bill. Meaning that barring any objections, the bill will be brought to the floor and passed without debate, without amendment, and without a roll-call vote. This is called unanimous consent — a move reserved, generally, for bills that are clear and non-controversial. [...]
It remains to be seen if the entire Senate will agree that a bill that would impact virtually every aspect of US policy (and policy options) related to Iran — now and for the foreseeable future — is clear and non-controversial. One can hope that at least one senator will be brave and conscientious enough to refuse the U/C request — something known as putting a “hold” on the bill. Holds, it should be recalled, are anonymous (and generally remain that way).
Barring that, it looks very possible that IRPSA, in some form, could become law before the end of the year, popular wisdom, good intentions, and good US policy be damned.
One thing that might be worth pointing out here about IRPSA — which “targets foreign companies that sell gasoline or other refined petroleum products to Iran; firms that provide ships, shipping services, or insurance for this trade; those that finance or broker such activity; as well as those assisting Iran’s effort to increase its domestic refining capacity” — is that there’s no one in Washington, on the right or left, who seriously argues it will actually work to change Iran’s behavior. But this may be of secondary concern to legislators looking for a cheap and easy way to appear “tough” on Iran.
What the IRPSA sanctions will do, however, as members of Iran’s pro-democracy movement have warned, is inflict pain on Iran’s people and provide Iran’s embattled regime with precisely the scapegoat they need at precisely the moment they need it.
As Carnegie analyst Karim Sadjadpour told Middle East Bulletin, the Green Movement has been “trying to recruit as many people as possible under the tent of the green movement, including disaffected clerics and Revolutionary Guardsmen.”
Both the government and the opposition are in precarious positions. The regime hasn’t recouped its lost legitimacy, and will continue to lose supporters as the economic situation deteriorates. They increasingly resemble a military junta, and there is serious dissent among them; even folks close to Khamenei, like Larijani and Tehran mayor Mohammed Bagher Ghalibaf, would like to get rid of Ahmadinejad.
As for the opposition, its leadership and brain trust remains either in prison, under house arrest or unable to freely operate. Though the scale and frequency of popular protests has subsided, the millions who took to the streets post-election have not been pacified or co-opted.
It’s hard to see how “crippling” unilateral sanctions like those contained in IRPSA would enhance the Green movement’s recruitment efforts.
I agree with those like Sadjadpour and Trita Parsi and Dokhi Fassihian of the National Iranian-American Council, and Abbas Milani who say that time is right for President Obama to make a more clear and forthright statement of solidarity with the Iranian people against human rights abuses. But the sanctions currently being considered by the U.S. Congress would do nothing to help that cause — as written, they would in fact be harmful.