April 21, 2010
Who Is Obstructing the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act?By John Appleton
Iran is the number-one terror-sponsoring nation in the world; it has been killing Americans for years. The country is led to by mad mullahs who see nuclear weapons as a ticket to paradise. Why would one key congressman spend the last year and a half trying to derail plans to stop Iran's nuclear program? Perhaps because he is doing so at the behest of Barack Obama.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has messianic dreams that view nuclear Armageddon as a means to bring about the return of Shia Islam's Hidden Imam and usher in a new age. For years, the Iranian regime has boasted of its plans to destroy the little Satan (Israel) and the big Satan (America).
For the past few years, Congress has worked on bills to erect a sanctions regime designed to moderate that Iran's behavior and slow, if not stop, its nuclear program. Over the years, various sanctions have been put in place and have not yet worked. Therefore, efforts have been made in both the Senate and the House to toughen the sanctions. A key focus has been efforts to shut off the export of refined petroleum products (gasoline, heating oil) into Iran. Despite having vast crude reserves, the nation cannot refine its own crude -- leading in the past to riots.
The Senate has a version of what is called the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act; the House has its own separate, somewhat weaker version.
Before these bills are voted on separately by both Houses of Congress, they must first be voted out of the foreign affairs committees of each house. In the Senate, this would be the Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Democratic Senator John Kerry (D-MA). In the House, it would be the Foreign Affairs Committee, chaired by Howard Berman (D-CA). Both have been accused of working with the White House to slow passage of these bills. Nevertheless, eventually and through the hard work of many advocates, both bills were voted out of the committee and then passed in both the Senate and the House.
But for the bills to become law, the bills have to be "reconciled" in a conference composed of both congressmen and senators, usually chosen by the chairmen of the committees who oversee the area involved in the legislation.
This type of reconciliation is not the controversial type of reconciliation used to pass ObamaCare, but refers to the process of melding the two separate bills into one single bill that can then be voted upon by both the House and the Senate. Then it would be passed on to the president for signing, becoming law.
But there seems to be a roadblock: Chairman Howard Berman.
John Kerry chose his conferees on March 11, 2010. Howard Berman has chosen to sit this one out -- he has not yet chosen his conferees from the House. The obduracy became so bad that steps were taken to elevate the matter to House leadership. They seem to be exasperated enough with Berman's delays to take the naming of the conferees upon themselves this week. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking and the centrifuges are spinning.
This led me to suspect that something may be amiss with Congressman Berman, who professes to be, among other things, a strong supporter of the America-Israel relationship. There are reasons to question this view. Berman seems to be more devoted to doing the bidding of Barack Obama than to defending America and our allies from a nuclear Iran.
As noted above, the progression of the bill through the House has been a slow one. Clearly, the White House did not want a bill to interfere with its outreach towards Iran. There have been reports that Howard Berman worked with the White House to "gum up the works." His reward may very well have been help with fundraising.
From Politico (December 8, 2009):
This was during the heat of the ObamaCare fight, yet the White House chief of staff -- for the first time -- takes a break to raise some funds for Berman. We shouldn't be surprised. The boys from Chicago have routinely treated Democrats as dogs in need of training: They can get the stick, such as a threat that they are "keeping score" regarding who supports them in Congress, or the carrot: fundraising help. Threats and bribes are the Chicago way.
But sadly, there are more grounds to be suspicious.
Howard Berman seems to have adopted the President's line of "reasoning". Before Barack Obama became president, Howard Berman spoke in June 2008 of the need for quickly passing a very tough sanctions regime. However, after Obama became president, Howard Berman changed his views and downgraded the importance of sanctions. In October of last year, sanctions became just one of many options for dealing with Iran. Actually, they became the fourth-best option. The first option would be continued (fruitless) engagement by Barack Obama, then U.N. resolutions, then other multilateral efforts. The very last option became sanctions. Berman seems to have done an about-face, all the while saluting Barack Obama.
An aversion to sanctions -- especially those that with bite that would crimp the import of gasoline by Iran -- is an Obama policy. Months ago, the administration made clear that it did not want sanctions that would affect the Iranian people, even though such sanctions would "heighten popular anger against the regime" (as a Washington Post editorial noted).
The steady weakening of the resolve of the administration to confront Iran (deadlines ignored by the mullahs and by Barack Obama; the devolution of sanctions from being "crippling" to "biting to "smart" to actually "non-existent") is an appalling but not surprising abdication of responsibility by our commander-in-chief.
Howard Berman seems to have gone along for the ride down that slippery slope -- endangering America and our imperiled ally, Israel.
One sign that Berman's weak approach matches Obama's agenda is that J Street -- an appeasement oriented lobby that declared it will serve as the "president's blocking back" regarding his policies towards Israel -- specifically endorsed Berman's approach towards Iran. Not a good sign that his approach has teeth.
There is more.
Congressman Mike Pence (R-IN) attempted to introduce a resolution in the House that strongly supported Iranian protesters and freedom-fighters during last year's massive protests throughout Iran. The Obama White House was feckless, and its aversion to helping the Iranians even led them to chant the question in the streets of Iran whether Obama was "with us." By now, the answer to that is clear. In any case, Pence's resolution was gutted by Howard Berman, who preferred to dilute the resolution. Was this at the behest of the White House?
A further sign that Howard Berman is just following marching orders from the White House is an act that has nothing to do with Iran but is indicative that he wants to curry favor with the Oval Office. The president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, was legally removed from power and escorted out of that nation. Barack Obama objected, as did Hugo Chávez and a Nazi-sympathizer ally of Zelaya's inside Honduras. The Law Library of Congress ruled that his ouster was legal -- frustrating Obama. Howard Berman (and John Kerry) then both wrote letters demanding that the opinion be retracted and "corrected"
Berman even went so far as to pen an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times advocating that the legal removal be characterized as a "military coup" and that foreign aid be terminated as a way to pressure Honduras to reinstall Zelaya. Berman is known for his left-wing sympathies, but is there something more at work here -- perhaps a bit of sycophancy?
Howard Berman appears to be doing the president's bidding as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. In doing so, he is following an agenda that puts America at risk, as well as putting Israel in peril. His district in California covers part of Los Angeles, a lot of San Fernando Valley, and a bit of Hollywood. The survival of Israel just may be one of the concerns of many of his constituents.
There may be a number of constituents there who might wonder why their representative seems to be serving the interests of Barack Obama instead of looking after their concerns and goals. They might judge him now -- as history will later.
John Appleton a pen name.