Belmont Club

Money Talks

The Cable at Foreign Policy quotes a letter by Senators Kirk and Menendez, who drafted the Kirk-Menendez amendment, warning the Obama administration against watering down sanctions on Iran. The text of the letter is here.

“We understand that the administration is drafting rules to guide the implementation of the law and we hereby seek to convey the legislative intent underlying certain terms and phrases in the amendment and to ensure that the positive developments that have occurred as a result of the amendment are buttressed by the administrative rules,” wrote Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) in a letter today to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who traveled personally to Japan and China this month to discuss the issue …

The Menendez-Kirk letter list several concerns about the forthcoming rules, which could be unveiled as early as next week. Their two main worries are that the administration will allow countries to avoid being penalized by saying they have achieved “significant reductions” in their dealing with Iran, and that Obama will postpone implementation of the sanctions on national security grounds.

The problem with the proposed sanctions is that that it will tread on many toes. What the State Department is trying to figure out is how to make it appear that tough sanctions have been imposed on Iran without it actually hurting anyone. The problem is also preoccupying others as “European Union envoys failed to agree details of a planned embargo on Iranian crude on Thursday, but diplomats said governments still sought to finalize the ban at a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday”, a report from Reuters said. “But they remain divided over several issues, primarily the length of a planned grace period that would allow states heavily dependent on Iranian oil to fulfill existing contracts for a period after the ban went into place.”


Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that “the Obama administration is moving ahead with plans for negotiating with the Taliban, confident that talks offer the best chance to end the 10-year-old war in Afghanistan. But the military worries things are moving too fast, and intelligence agencies offered a gloomy prognosis in their latest Afghanistan report.”

Will the Taliban keep up their end of the bargain after taking whatever incentives are on offer? Or will they double-cross America? Maybe the military has cause to worry.

And they are paying more for the privilege of defending Pakistan from the Taliban too. Another AP report says “the U.S. is paying six times as much to send war supplies to troops in Afghanistan through alternate routes after Pakistan’s punitive decision in November to close border crossings to NATO convoys, the Associated Press has learned.”

That lost opportunity is probably galling Pakistan, which is going to reopen its roads to resupplying forces in Afghanistan — but at higher rates of pay. “Pakistan expects to re-open supply routes to NATO forces in Afghanistan, halted after a NATO cross-border air attack killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November, but will impose tariffs, a senior security official told Reuters on Thursday.”

The official said the fees were designed to express continued anger over the November 26 attack and raise funds for the state to fight homegrown Taliban militants blamed for many of the suicide bombings across the country.

“The tariffs will cover everything from the port to security to roads which, after all, belong to Pakistan,” the security official, who asked to remain anonymous, told Reuters.

No date was given for reopening the supply routes. Pakistan’s trade ministry was working out details of the tariffs, said the official.

Perhaps the Pakistani officials are also calculating who gets what in order to assuage the pride wounded by the suggestion that they were less than trustworthy place and secretly in league with people like Osama bin Laden. But in fairness the Pakistanis are simply calculating the angles, just as the State Department is; and the Europeans are; even as the Taliban weigh what is on offer; just as the Central Asians have and as the Pakistanis are going to.

“Let’s make a deal” is a cry heard round the world to the sound of the jingling cash registers everywhere with the cash flowing in one direction only. One thing is constant: the taxpayer pays. When the visionaries of Hope and Change cry “I’d like to buy the world a Coke“, they really mean it.  It’s the real thing.


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