Friday, June 20, 2008

Congress Right on Cue

In recent weeks, I have been complaining about Congress' tendency to view agreements with other states as rewards granted by Washington. Right on cue, and sorry I missed it last week when it happened, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida did not disappoint. She called the proposed 123 civil nuclear agreement with Russia "a political reward bestowed by the U.S." which is why she opposes it.

Undersecretary of state John Rood for arms control and international security reminded the foreign affairs committee of the house that 123 agreements with other states "contains all the necessary nonproliferation conditions and controls that Congress has written into law." In other words, this agreement would bring Russia's nuclear industry into alignment with our regulations and controls, allow for more cooperation, and be a further step in helping to internationalize the nuclear fuel cycle, a key component to limiting the spread of enrichment capabilities to more countries. All positives for the U.S., but apparently not enough for some in the Congress.

UPDATE: Thanks to Justin Logan over at the Cato Institute, who passed along what happened earlier this week in the Senate Finance Committee, which approved an Iran sanctions bill that also contains language to block the 123 Agreement with Russia. Four Senators--Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), John Rockefeller IV (D-WV), Blanche Lincoln (D-AK) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA)--tried to remove this language, on the grounds that this jeopardizes efforts to isolate Iran.

Also, the bill has provisions for what many Europeans see as extra-territorial efforts to apply U.S. law to non-U.S. subsidiaries--and this at a time when Europeans are themselves showing more interest in sanctioning Iran.

You know, maybe if the US had a nuclear deal with Russia much earlier, they'd be doing business with us and making money and wouldn't have turned to Iran in the first place. But we didn't want the competition.
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