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President Obama said last September, “I was elected to end wars, not start them.” Unfortunately, dozens of U.S. senators believe they have a different mandate.

In the aftermath of the historic preliminary nuclear deal forged between Iran and six world powers, lawmakers in both the United States and Iran are doing their best to stop any permanent progress.

A Senate bill supported by 15 Democrats — including Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Bob Casey (D-PA) — along with 19 Republican co-sponsors would implement new sanctions on the Persian nation if it doesn’t immediately abandon all uranium enrichment, even for peaceful purposes.

Proposed legislation in the Iranian parliament would immediately increase enrichment beyond terms set in the temporary agreement if new sanctions go into effect.

Threatening to double down on sanctions would make sense as punishment for negotiations failing, but these senators are issuing a punishment for Iran coming to the table and making its first agreement with the international community in years.

“Members of Congress pressing for this bill are effectively choosing to close the door on diplomacy, making it far more likely that we’ll be left only with a military option,” an administration official told the Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent. This contradicts claims from the right that the pressure of more sanctions will force Iran to make an agreement.

While Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has argued that Iran’s new president Hassan Rouhani is “a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” his country’s own intelligence suggests otherwise. “Expert analysis does not view Rouhani’s election as a deception by Khamenei intended solely to mislead the West, but rather as an authentic leader who is creating an independent power center,” reports Haaretz’s Amos Harel.

Hardliners could seize on new U.S. sanctions as proof that the outreach of their new president is doomed, ending this historic opportunity.

The end of negotiations may lead to the collapse of the fragile international sanctions regime, leaving America with only two options: military action or containment.

Those demanding an immediate end to enrichment would likely be unsatisfied with any continuation of Iran’s military program, making an attack inevitable and only an invasion could prevent the regime from eventually reconstituting and building a weapon, experts including Kenneth M. Pollack of the Brookings Institution argue.

“So, if stopping the program is important enough for war, is it important enough for an invasion of a nation with almost three times the population of Iraq and nearly four times the size?” conservative columnist George F. Will asks.

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has no idea how to help the unemployed but his strategy for dealing with Iran makes a lot more sense than that of his 15 Democratic colleagues — at least in November, when he appeared on Fox News Sunday.

“I haven’t seen what the sanctions are yet, but what I would say is that I am a little bit concerned about having new sanctions in the middle of negotiations,” he said.

The senator went on to say that he might even be willing to pursue containment, a policy that he said worked for 70 years.

As he said that, the rating system Fox uses to illustrate public opinion nosedived and neoconservative heads exploded. The Washington Post‘s Jennifer Rubin said Paul was worse than Obama, as the president has vowed to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

The public is opposed to Iran getting a nuclear weapon but it also appears largely in favor of the preliminary deal.

Republicans seized on the war-weariness of the American public to help stop a military strike on Syria. But would the “anti-war” wing of the party be able to drown out the neoconservatives who have been edging toward a war with Iran for decades? Paul has been conspicuously quiet since the preliminary deal was announced.

“For him to endorse the administration’s efforts at Iran diplomacy, when the grassroots of his party would learn to hate ice cream if Obama were associated with it, might qualify him for a chapter in the next edition of Profiles in Courage,” The American Conservative’s Scott McConnell noted.

A coalition of Democrats eager to seem tough on defense and Republicans eager for war led America into the disastrous invasion of Iraq, a country that is now more closely aligned with Iran than ever before and torn by fighting that looks more and more like the resurgence of a briefly squelched civil war.

Hawks argue that containment enforced by mutually assured destruction cannot work with Iran because it supports international terrorism.

“Iran is guided by a leadership with an unbelievable fanaticism,” Netanyahu said on Meet the Press in 2012, when he was in the middle of his campaign for Mitt Romney. “You want these fanatics to have nuclear weapons?”

The loss of Romney and election of Rouhani created the opportunity for peace, as much as hawks both home and abroad may not want to admit that.

The lesson of Iraq is not just that invasion can’t and won’t work, it’s that containment does. Forcing rash decisions that draw us closer and closer to any sort of military conflict with Iran proves we’ve learned nothing from the last decade. That’s not surprising when it comes from Republicans.

But Democrats should know and do better.

Photo: TechCrunch via Flickr


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Former President Donald Trump, left, and former White House counsel Pat Cipollone

On Wednesday evening the House Select Committee investigating the Trump coup plot issued a subpoena to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, following blockbuster testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who said the lawyer had warned of potential criminal activity by former President Donald Trump and his aides.

The committee summons to Cipollone followed long negotiations over his possible appearance and increasing pressure on him to come forward as Hutchinson did. Committee members expect the former counsel’s testimony to advance their investigation, owing to his knowledge of the former president's actions before, during and after the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

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