Congress Passes Economic 'WMDs'
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On August 1st, the House and Senate passed a new round of Iran sanctions legislation near-unanimously, ushering in the most aggressive sanctions the U.S. has ever imposed on a country with which it is not at war. During the House floor debate, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH) referred to FCNL's statement against these indiscriminate sanctions and entered it into the Congressional Record.
However, a diverse coalition of peace and business groups did achieve an important victory in preserving an exception to the sanctions for sales of food, medicine, and other humanitarian goods to Iran, called "the humanitarian exemption". FCNL led a coalition letter signed by eleven national organizations which urged Senator Tim Johnson (SD), Chair of the Senate Banking Committee, to keep channels open for Iranian civilians to access food, medicine, and other humanitarian goods and services. During the debate, Sen. Johnson issued a landmark statement supporting humanitarian trade. See FCNL's statement on why despite the humanitarian exemption, the new sanctions are a major setback for diplomacy, human rights, and humanitarian concerns.
Over the past few weeks, the Senate has signaled definitive opposition to U.S. ratification of two treaties. Despite support from oil and gas companies, the Chamber of Commerce, and the military for the Law of the Sea treaty, over one third of the Senate publicly opposed ratification of the treaty. Ratification of treaties requires a two-thirds majority, so progress on the Law of the Sea treaty is at least temporarily stalled. For more, read outgoing program assistant Lena Garrettson's analysis.
Last month, U.N. negotiations to establish an Arms Trade Treaty collapsed after the U.S. and a few other countries urged delaying the treaty until next year. Read Cassidy Regan's blog post for more information.
The defeat of these two treaties underscores an anti-treaty sentiment in the Senate that has steadily grown in recent years. Exaggerated concerns about maintaining U.S. sovereignty are driving this worrying trend. FCNL remains committed to supporting international efforts that collectively address global concerns.
Before the August recess, the House passed the military appropriations bill containing over $606 billion for the Pentagon and the war in Afghanistan. Even though this staggering amount of money passed overwhelmingly, the consideration of various war funding programs sparked a spirited debate. Over a dozen members took to the House floor to deliver rousing speeches on ending the war in Afghanistan for over 90 minutes. Although amendments to cut the nuclear weapons budget and some other programs proved unsuccessful, a large bipartisan coalition of members managed to reduce the war funding account by several hundred million dollars and freeze next year's overall military spending to 2012 levels.
Check out Matt Southworth's analysis for more information.
The Peaceful Prevention of Deadly Conflict team just completed a briefing paper on the drift toward counterterrorism and military priorities regarding U.S.-Kenya policy. Our report comes amid news of the recent U.S. decision to include surveillance drones in a new military aid package to Kenya, even as electoral tensions rise. The decision heightens the need to support Kenyan peacebuilders.
What We're Reading
- Recognize Palestinian Nonviolence, Kate Gould, 8/2/2012, Jewish Telegraphic Agency
- Churches' group on the Middle East, Warren Clark, 7/17/12, Jewish Telegraphic Agency
- Sanctions at the Genius Bar, Jamal Abdi, 7/12/12, New York Times
- Damascus today: Sarajevo, 1914? Helena Cobban, 7/18/12, Just World News
- What the Women Say: Killing them Softly: The Stark Impact of Sanctions on the Lives of Ordinary Iranians, July 2012, International Civil Society Action Network