Nel's New Day

January 9, 2014

Iran, TTP – Hope Congress Does Nothing

The 113th Congress is known for doing nothing, and I hope that they continue the trend. Right now there are two issues before Congress that can literally destroy the United States: a Senate bill could put us in war, and a House bill could give corporations 100 percent control of the country.

Issue #1: Iran

Up to 58 senators have signed onto S. 1881, the bill to immediately put new sanctions on Iran if they dare break the current agreement. Iran is willing to negotiate but promised to break off any agreement and destroy existing diplomatic gestures if the U.S. proposes new sanctions. Passing the bill could start another war in the Middle East, costing trillions more dollars.

The bill does state that sanctions would go into effect only if Iran either violates the interim agreement or cannot reach a deal. If that happens, however, the senate could then pass the sanctions rather than disturb the fragile communication between Iran and other world powers regarding Iran’s nuclear program. In fact, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-SD) said that he has already has prepared a bill in case the nuclear talks with Iran fail.

Former ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan Ryan Crocker and former ambassador to Israel, India, and the U.N., Thomas Pickering, have joined others in signing a letter explaining that the bill would question the country’s good faith. The letter states that the senate bill “will threaten the prospects for success in the current negotiations and thus present us and our friends with a stark choice — military action or living with a nuclear Iran.” It adds that attacking Iran would not keep it from developing nuclear weapons; instead if would likely give the Iranians justification to seek them.

Since the agreement on November 24, 2013, modest sanctions relief was exchanged for Iran’s reining in its nuclear program. After the bill was introduced, however, Iranian parliamentarians introduced a measure to enrich nearly weapon-grade uranium.

Secretary of State John Kerry said about the bill, “If we appear to be going off on our own tangent and do whatever we want we will potentially lose their support for the sanctions themselves because we don’t just enforce them by ourselves, we need their help,” referring the U.K, France, China, Russia, and Germany.

Sanctions in the bill include further reductions in Iran’s oil exports and new penalties on other industries, but it goes much farther. The bill insists on zero enrichment to prevent future sanctions, which is unattainable and goes far beyond any UN resolutions against Iran. In addition, the U.S. president would have no power to lift any sanctions. The president would also have no power to issue “cooperating country” waivers for countries reducing their Iranian oil imports unless they reduced oil imports by 30 percent in the first year and ended the imports in the second year, something that countries like China, South Korea, and India are unlikely to do.

The bill also pledges U.S. military support for an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear program, meaning that Israel put the U.S. into war with another nation for any reason.

Threatening these sanctions while the U.S. is negotiating would strengthen Iranian hardliners. They lost the last election, but new sanctions could empower them to undercut the current diplomatic outreach and return them to political power.

The Senate needs a two-thirds majority, 67, to override the president’s veto. Johnson said that the bill will not go through his committee of jurisdiction. It will have to get to the floor some other way. If the Senate votes on an Iran sanctions bill in the coming weeks, don’t expect it to go through the regular committee process.  He’ll wait as long as Iran is negotiating.

Fewer than one-third of the senators were there to declare war in the early 2000s. Fortunately, Tim Johnson was one of them. He understands the danger of declaring war on Iran.

Issue #2: Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

The mainstream media has almost no information on the TPP, partly because there as so many other issues and partly because the president wants to keep it secret to get it “fast-tracked”—passed through Congress with no debate and no notice. Twelve nations are negotiating the secretive, multi-national trade agreement that would restrict intellectual property laws and rewrite international rules on its enforcement. Freedom of speech, right to privacy and due process, and the ability to innovate would all be greatly restricted. Although only 12 countries are involved in the agreement, other countries would most likely be coerced into the “partnership” to maintain trade agreements with the TPP members.

TPP was started in 2008 by George W. Bush and continued by President Obama–who pledged in that same year to be transparent. In 2010, all involved nations signed a pledge to hide the deliberations from the public and keep any related documents secret until four years after the deal is done. Last year, the president’s trade rep, Ron Kirk, declared that secrecy was vital because the agreement would enrage people in the U.S. and keep Congress from rubber stamping it. Kirk has been replaced.

No one is 100 percent sure of exactly what the agreement says because no draft has been officially released; people are learning about it through leaked documents. Because all the negotiations occurred behind closed doors, it was not subject to any system of checks and balances.

We do know that domestic laws and policies would be forced to conform to the agreement. Congress could no longer make law if corporations disagree. The same thing would happen in other countries, requiring them to rewrite recent laws. U.S. entertainment and pharmaceutical industries would be benefited while Internet users and technology innovators would lose flexibility and exceptions.

The greatest benefit from TPP goes to corporations because they can more easily sue government, prevent regulation of GMOs, and keep people in impoverished countries from accessing life-saving medicines. Activities such as sourcing local food for schools, banning fracking, and labeling genetically engineered foods are at the top of the corporate hit list.

The House Ways and Means Committee has joined with the Senate Finance Committee to legislate the “trade-promotion authority” which provides an up-or-down vote in Congress. Thomas Donohue, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, described TPP as “the Chamber’s top trade priority before the Congress.” House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said that the bill couldn’t pass without bipartisan support, a far reach from his usual partisan position.

People who consider TPP to be a benign trade agreement might want to consider the big tobacco company lawsuits against governments of Australia, Uruguay, and several African countries for violating trade agreements by limiting advertising and packaging cigarettes. British-American Tobacco complained that Australia’s anti-smoking regulations violate its trademark rights because the country requires cigarettes to be sold in drab packages.

Tobacco companies have sued and threatened to sue countries like Uruguay and Uganda, arguing that their tobacco rules unfairly restrict trade or hurt their investments. Namibia has not enforced tobacco regulations because it is not prepared to fight long and expensive legal battles against large companies.

Poorer, developing countries are particularly targeted by Big Tobacco, because governments don’t have the resources to fight back. Margaret Chan, director of the World Health Organization, said the trade suits are “deliberately designed to instill fear in countries wishing to introduce tough tobacco control measures.” Trade agreements and investment treaties are meant to make it easier for governments to do business internationally, not allow corporations to undermine legitimate public health regulations. Smoking-related illnesses kill nearly six million people a year across the planet, and almost 80 percent of the world’s smokers live in low- and middle-income countries.

This is just one example of environmental, public health, and civil rights laws that big business such as Halliburton, Chevron, and Monsanto might consider trade violations. These corporations are only three of the 600 companies plus some non-governmental groups that advise TPP trade negotiations.

The TTP can also:

  • offshore millions of American jobs by skirting regulations in other countries;
  • free the banksters from oversight by prohibint transaction taxes, restrict “firewall” reforms, and permit banks to regulate themselves;
  • ban “Buy America” policies needed to create green jobs and rebuild our economy;
  • decrease access to medicine and increase prices through monopolies;
  • eliminate regulations for food safety, calling them “illegal trade barriers”;
  • flood the U.S. with unsafe food and products;
  • allow unlimited fracking;
  • govern public services such as utilities, transportation, and education;
  • and empower corporations to attack our environmental and health safeguards.

TPP is the end of U.S. sovereignty. Corporations will be making all the laws, and cases will be decided behind closed doors by three-person international tribunals of private attorneys hired by corporations.

Of course, if the Senate declares war against Iran and they use nuclear weapons against us, we might not have to worry about the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

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