As far as we have been able to ascertain, Agence France-Presse is the only news agency to have reported Friday on a statement by National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan that Democrats backing a bill stiffening Iran sanctions should admit that they "want the United States to take military action" against Iran, and even AFP buried the statement in the 26th paragraph of its story. -- The statement is getting considerable play in Iranian media, however. -- Meanwhile, a Fox News reporter seemingly eager to please the Israel lobby made an effort to pressure White House Press Secretary Jay Carney to disavow the statement, but Carney refused to do so and artfully evaded the attack. ...
WHITE HOUSE WON'T PREDICT IRAN SANCTIONS VOTE
January 10, 2014
The White House declined Friday to renew its previous prediction that a Senate bill slapping new sanctions on Iran, which it fears could scupper nuclear talks, would not pass the Senate.
President Barack Obama's spokesman Jay Carney did deliver a new warning, however, that the bill would be detrimental to the drive to resolve the nuclear showdown with Tehran short of war.
"I think that we remain hopeful that Congress will not pass such a sanctions bill because of the negative effect that would have on the ongoing negotiations and the potential to resolve this peacefully," Carney said.
"But I'm not going to make legislative predictions."
Carney's comments appeared to hint at an eroding of the administration's position on the bipartisan legislation since December, when he threatened Obama would veto the bill if it passed.
"We don't think it will be enacted. If it were enacted, the president would veto it," Carney said of the legislation on December 19.
According to Senate procedure, a bill technically becomes an Act when it has passed one chamber of Congress.
But it does not become law until the president signs it or until both the House of Representatives and the Senate have produced the necessary two-thirds vote to override a veto.
Obama and senior aides have repeatedly urged a bipartisan group of senators not to pass more sanctions on Iran, fearing they could undermine Tehran's negotiating team with conservatives back home and prompt Tehran to walk away from the table.
Lawmakers who support the bill say tough sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table and stiffer measures would increase Obama's leverage in talks between the Islamic Republic and the P5+1 group of world powers.
The latest wrangling over sanctions in Washington came as negotiators agreed on how to implement a six-month interim deal on curtailing Iran's nuclear program in the latest round of talks in Geneva.
The deal, meant to provide time and space to negotiate a permanent pact, will now be sent to respective national capitals before it can be put into force.
Obama has insisted that Washington must test Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's willingness to honor a pledge to seek a peaceful nuclear deal, despite opposition from many hawks on Capitol Hill and deep reservations by America's closest Middle Eastern ally, Israel.
Action by Congress, he argues, would be an unnecessary impediment to the talks. Obama stresses however that he has not taken the option of using military force to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions if diplomacy fails.
Carney said the new sanctions would have the opposite effect to the one intended by key sponsors, Democratic Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez and Republican Senator Mark Kirk.
"It could, if they were to do it, actually weaken the sanctions structure that's in place by undermining faith among our international partners and providing Iran the opportunity to say that we have been negotiating in bad faith," Carney said.
In a *Washington Post* editorial, Menendez described the initiative as a "diplomatic insurance policy" against Iran.
He said his bill would impose immediate extra sanctions on Iran if it became necessary but would not come into force while "good faith" negotiations were under way.
"Should Iran breach this agreement or fail to negotiate in good faith, the penalties it would face are severe," he wrote.
New sanctions would further target Iranian petroleum products and the mining, engineering and construction sectors.
The White House counters that if Iran reneges on the interim deal, which provides for limited relief on sanctions in return for a curbing of aspects of the nuclear program, it would support the swift passage of new sanctions.
It remains unclear when the sanctions bill could be brought up in the Senate. But several reports suggest that support is growing for the measure despite the administration's intense lobbying effort.
Ten key Democratic Party committee chairs in the Senate last year demanded that the drive for new sanctions be put on hold, backing the administration's arguments.
The White House first warned US lawmakers back in November that tightening sanctions on Iran could box the United States into a "march to war" and derail a diplomatic push to limit Tehran's atomic program.
Bernadette Meehan, a National Security Council spokeswoman, delivered a similar warning.
"If certain members of Congress want the United States to take military action, they should be up front with the American public and say so," Meehan told The Huffington Post news website.
Western nations have long suspected Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons alongside its civilian program, allegations denied by Tehran, which insists its nuclear activities are entirely peaceful.
WHITE HOUSE: SENATE'S IRAN SANCTIONS BILL SEEKING TO PUSH U.S. INTO WAR
TEHRAN -- The White House launched a harsh attack on supporters of a Senate bill to impose fresh sanctions on Iran, suggesting that they have a hidden goal of drawing the country into another Mideast war.
If supporters “want the United States to take military action, they should be up front with the American people and say so,” Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said in a statement, *Los Angles Times* reported.
“Otherwise, it’s not clear why any member of Congress would support a bill that possibly closes the door on diplomacy and makes it more likely that the United States will have to choose between military options or allowing Iran’s nuclear program to continue.”
The White House argues that by driving Iran from the table, the tough new sanctions bill could undermine international negotiations aimed at an agreement to ensure that Tehran’s nuclear program remains peaceful.
The White House statement, issued late Thursday, was the first time the administration had accused sanctions advocates of a concealed agenda.
It escalated the administration’s criticism of powerful Democratic legislators whom the White House needs on many issues, including Sen. Chuck E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), No. 3 in Senate Democratic leadership, and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
President Obama has identified the Iran nuclear deal as a top foreign policy priority, and he and other top administration officials have conducted an unusual all-out lobbying campaign to stop the bill.
REPORTER TO CARNEY: WHY IS WHITE HOUSE ACCUSING DEMOCRATS OF WANTING TO GO TO WAR?
Washington Free Beacon
January 10, 2014
http://freebeacon.com/reporter-to-carney-why-is-white-house-accusing-democrats-of-wanting-to-go-to-war/ (see original for link to video)
White House press secretary Jay Carney and Fox News reporter Ed Henry got into a tense exchange Friday over the Obama administration’s infighting with Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) and other Democrats supporting a sanctions bill against Iran.
Henry’s question referenced a Huffington Post article splashed on the site’s front page Friday where National Security Council spokesman Bernadette Meehan was quoted as saying any legislators who wanted military action taken against Iran should come out and say so, arguing that support for the bill would undercut diplomacy with Tehran. Henry took that to mean that the White House had essentially accused Democrats like Menendez of wanting to go to war.
“Look, I think that Senator Menendez -- Chairman Menendez wants what we want, which is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Carney said. “He and many other in the Senate have been excellent partners in helping construct this sanctions regime which was designed to bring Iran to the negotiating table and which, thanks to the efforts of Congress, has achieved that.”
Henry pressed on, however, asking Carney repeatedly whether it was fair to say Menendez and other Democrats wanted war with that kind of statement coming from the NSC, pointing out President Obama himself has said he would not take the military option off the table when dealing with a rogue nation like Iran.
Carney dodged the question, saying he couldn’t comment on every member of the U.S. Senate.
“I mean, I don’t know every one of a hundred senators, what their personal view is on whether or not military force ought to be used in Iran, so I can’t give a blanket statement about how they all feel,” Carney said. “What I do know is, when it comes to Senator Menendez and all of the partners who have assisted this administration over the years in building the sanctions regime, is that we share a common goal, which is to deprive Iran of the opportunity of acquiring a nuclear weapon, and to do so through negotiations.”
ED HENRY: On Iran, got a lot of questions on that, but I wanted to be more specific on -- there’s an interesting story in Huffington Post where a White House official is quoted today as suggesting that people who support this sanctions bill on the Hill, Democrats and Republicans -- the quote is, if certain members of Congress want the U.S. to take military action, they should be up front with the American public and say so. You’re basically accusing Democrats like Bob Menendez of wanting to go to war. Is that really a fair characterization?
JAY CARNEY: I think we have said all along, Ed, that we have worked cooperatively and effectively with an excellent partner in Congress in building a sanctions regime against Iran the likes of which the world has never seen, more effective than the world has ever seen. And we share the same goals that members of Congress of both parties share, which is the absolute need to deprive Iran of acquiring a nuclear weapon.
And our stated concern again and again is that pursuing sanctions now, new sanctions now, would actually undermine the objective here, the objective being that we can bring about, potentially, through negotiation, a peaceful resolution of this conflict between Iran and the rest of the world in a verifiable, transparent way that would, more effectively than a military action, assure the P-5 plus one, the United States, our allies and everybody in the world that Iran does not and is not — does not have and is not pursuing a nuclear weapon. So --
HENRY: I understand you’re saying this could blow up the diplomatic deal, but the thing is you’re going further in this story. And a White House official on the record is saying that these lawmakers want the U.S. to take military action. Do you -- can you say from the podium that you — that Democrat Bob Menendez wants to go to war?
CARNEY: Look, I think that Senator Menendez -- Chairman Menendez wants what we want, which is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. He and many other in the Senate have been excellent partners in helping construct this sanctions regime which was designed to bring Iran to the negotiating table and which, thanks to the efforts of Congress, has achieved that.
And I believe that, you know, when it comes -- this isn’t a debate about sanctions. Obviously this administration supports sanctions. We built the biggest, most effective sanctions regime in history. Our view of the current situation is that passing new sanctions legislation now would be counterproductive to the goal that we all share.
And the problem -- the obviously problem with that is that if we want, as everyone does, to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon, and we make it harder if not impossible to pursue achieving that goal peacefully, then we -- our options become very limited. So it’s not about motive; it’s about, you know, the potential outcome that would be negative for the United States and our allies.
HENRY: The president himself has repeatedly said he has the military option on the table, he should not take that off the table.
CARNEY: And he won’t.
HENRY: So it would be unfair for people to suggest he wants to go to war, right? He’s just saying I want to have that option. So how can you possibly accuse Democrats and Republicans on the Hill of wanting to take military action? That’s what you’re saying.
CARNEY: Again, Ed, I think that –
HENRY: Are you running from that -- (inaudible) -- is my question.
CARNEY: No, I’m not. What I’m saying is -- I mean, I don’t know every one of a hundred senators, what their personal view is on whether or not military force ought to be used in Iran, so I can’t give a blanket statement about how they all feel.
What I do know is, when it comes to Senator Menendez and all of the partners who have assisted this administration over the years in building the sanctions regime, is that we share a common goal, which is to deprive Iran of the opportunity of acquiring a nuclear weapon, and to do so through negotiations. That’s why we built the sanctions regime. And our strong concern is that passage of sanctions at this time would negatively affect and perhaps scuttle the negotiations that are underway, and then make it much harder, if not impossible, to achieve our objective peacefully.