“Gone will be the days when the committee deferred to the administration on the order of foreign-policy priorities,” writes Rogin. “The committee will also stop taking the administration’s word when it comes to matters of policy oversight“:
For example, although [current chairman Howard] Berman and Ros-Lehtinen agreed on the need to push tough sanctions on Iran, Berman delayed action on the bill to allow Obama’s engagement effort to play out. Ros-Lehtinen might not be so accommodating.
“The Berman people were ahead of the Obama team on a number of things, but they deferred to the administration on timing. You are going to see more aggressiveness, to push an agenda and not to defer to the administration,” said a Republican congressional aide. [...]
Ros-Lehtinen will be pushing the administration to strictly enforce new sanctions law against Iran. If the mere threat of penalties under the law doesn’t entice large international companies to leave Iran, she will call for the administration to start punishing those companies, even if they are from China or Russia.
It’s apparently lost on Ros-Lehtinen, one of Congress’s most strident Iran hawks, that Obama’s ongoing engagement effort — which Ros-Lehtinen dismissed as a “mirage” — has been a key factor both in building international support for the newest round of U.N. sanctions, and, according to Iranian human rights activists, in creating political space within Iran for the Green movement that Ros-Lehtinen herself claims to support.
Marc Lynch suggests that, while we shouldn’t expect a huge impact on foreign policy from the new Congress, we should “look for another round of sanctions and some kind of Iranian Liberation Act on the horizon, regardless of how things are actually going for U.S. diplomatic efforts.” I think this is probably right. The neocons seem to understand that President Obama isn’t going to launch military strikes against Iran, and thus their short-term aim will be to try and foreclose certain diplomatic options for him — antagonizing Russia, antagonizing China — and causing trouble wherever they can, then giving him the option of “relieving the pressure” by signing a bill in support of Iranian dissident groups, which a future Republican administration can turn around and cite as evidence of “bipartisan support” for their latest Middle East war, as the Bush administration did with the Iraq Liberation Act.
One other thing to watch for, if they intend to rerun the Iraq script, as it appears they do, is who the Iran hawks will identify as their token pro-invasion Iranians, the new “Iranian National Congress.” I suspect it will be some group affiliated with the Mujahideen e-Khalq, an organization with no actual base of support in Iran (just like the Iraqi National Congress!) and inconveniently listed as a terrorist group by the State Dept., but for whom a number of neocons have been lobbying for years.
I doubt we’ll see an Iranian Ahmad Chalabi, though. Because, as we now know, the Iranian Ahmad Chalabi was Ahmad Chalabi.