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Amid bipartisan commitment to moving forward sanctions, Senate Majority Leader comes out in favor of pressure and promises December vote

Posted by Albert Gersh - November 21, 2013

  • Amid bipartisan commitment to moving forward sanctions, Senate Majority Leader comes out in favor of pressure and promises December vote
  • Khamenei plasters Internet with posters calling Israel "sinister, unclean rabid dog," underscoring diverging French and U.S. stances
  • Azerbaijan arrests Iranian suspected of plotting terror attack on Israeli embassy, being Quds Force operative
  • TIME: After stock "plummeted in the past year," Hamas now "keen to cozy back up to Iran"

What we’re watching today:

  • Efforts by U.S. lawmakers to impose new financial pressure on Iran picked up momentum today, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid committing to having the Senate vote to boost sanctions after the body's Thanksgiving recess, and 14 other senators, hailing from both parties, declaring that they would cooperate to push through such legislation. Reid's office published floor remarks made by the Nevada Democrat declaring himself to be a "strong supporter of [the] sanctions regime" and committing not only to "mov[ing] forward with a new bipartisan Iran sanctions bill" but more specifically to "support[ing] a bill that would broaden the scope of our current petroleum sanctions; place limitations on trade with strategic sectors of the Iranian economy that support its nuclear ambitions, as well as pursue those who divert goods to Iran." Amid controversial comments being leveled by some administration officials and by Hezbollah - in which sanctions proponents are being accused of seeking to derail negotiations and drag America into war - Reid stated that while he "support[s] the Admiration’s diplomatic efforts" he is committed to keeping the U.S.'s "legislative options open." Meanwhile more than a dozen U.S. senators published a bipartisan statement promising to "work together to reconcile Democratic and Republican proposals over the coming weeks and to pass bipartisan Iran sanctions legislation as soon as possible."
  • Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last night doubled down on a controversial Wednesday speech in which he branded Israel a "rabid dog" - part of a diatribe in which he also declared that Israeli leaders "cannot be called humans" but "are like animals" - by posting images to Twitter and Facebook with the line "Israel is the sinister, unclean rabid dog of the region." Commenting on the controversy, the Wall Street Journal described how the "French government quickly... [called Khamenei's] speech 'unacceptable,' while the Obama administration offered a much milder response." A senior Obama administration official, who spoke to reporters during a background briefing in Geneva, had in fact pointedly declined to condemn Khamenei not only for his attack on Israel but also for his insinuation that the U.S. had launched a nuclear attack on Japan after the country had functionally surrendered. Instead the administration official noted while they "don't ever like it" when people speak about the United States in such terms, America for its part has "had many people... say difficult things about Iran and Iranians, and not always necessarily [drawing] a difference between governmental decisions and culture and people and - this is a very difficult terrain." Amid widespread international disbelief at the U.S. stance, administration officials today issued what the Jerusalem Post described as "belated condemnation."
  • Israel's Channel 10 reported yesterday that an Iranian national was arrested two weeks ago in Azerbaijan after authorities observed him walking through the Israeli embassy displaying "suspicious behavior," and after a raid of his house revealed plans and photographs indicating he intended to attack the building. If it is confirmed that 31-year-old Hasan Faraji was planning to launch a terror attack against the Israeli installation, the incident would become the latest of almost a dozen recent terror plots linked to the Islamic republic and staged not just repeatedly in Azerbaijan but also in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Thailand, Georgia, India, Nigeria, Singapore, Nepal, Turkey, and even Israel. The Channel 10 broadcast described Faraji as a member of the Iranian Quds Forces, the branch of Iran's Revolutionary Guard responsible for conducting overseas terror operations. A State Department report published this summer noted that "Iran and Hezbollah’s terrorist activity has reached a tempo unseen since the 1990s," echoing a report published this year by the Washington Institute’s Matthew Levitt concluding that Iran’s global terror operations had "climbed back up the list of immediate threats facing the United States and its allies."
  • A collapse of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and a series of geopolitical missteps have led to the isolation of the Gaza Strip and the Hamas terror group that controls it, such that not only has Hamas's "stock... plummeted in the past year" but "time is not on the [terror group's] side," according to an extensive write-up published today by TIME. The Palestinian organization went all-in last year on an emerging Sunni extremist axis in the Middle East anchored by Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood, and in many contexts including Qatar. The decision saw Hamas distance itself from the two other solidifying camps in the region: the Iranian camp that includes Syria and Hezbollah - and that had included Hamas - and the more moderate Arab Sunni camp of traditional U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Subsequent months saw severe declines in the foreign policy influence of both Turkey and Qatar, while the leadership of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood was largely decapitated by that country's military. The result, according to TIME, is that Hamas is now "keen to cozy back up to Iran." TIME's analysis is in line with multiple statements not just by Hamas leaders, but also top figures from Hezbollah and Iran. Tehran's diplomats have not been shy in letting it be known that their former Palestinian terror proxies are now seeking rapprochement.

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