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Ron Paul Supports Obama Position on Iran

A House resolution supporting the protesters in Iran passed this morning 405-1. While the text of the bill is rather mild, doubtlessly it will be reported in Iran as evidence of US interference. The case is made even stronger by throwing in a few quotes from the debate that preceded the vote.

And the lone dissenter in this pageantry? Ron Paul.

In a statement released concerning the resolution, Paul said:

Of course I do not support attempts by foreign governments to suppress the democratic aspirations of their people, but when is the last time we condemned Saudi Arabia or Egypt or the many other countries where unlike in Iran there is no opportunity to exercise any substantial vote on political leadership? It seems our criticism is selective and applied when there are political points to be made. I have admired President Obama’s cautious approach to the situation in Iran and I would have preferred that we in the House had acted similarly.

I adhere to the foreign policy of our Founders, who advised that we not interfere in the internal affairs of countries overseas. I believe that is the best policy for the United States, for our national security and for our prosperity. I urge my colleagues to reject this and all similar meddling resolutions.

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Obama's Smart Approach to the Iranian Elections

The Obama Administration's response to the ongoing Iranian election crisis has been remarkably intelligent.

Rather than make blustering statements in support of one side or the other, President Obama has urged restraint and caution when it comes to US commentary on what is going on in Iran. In a CNBC interview, he told the press,

It is not productive, given the history of US-Iranian relations to be seen as meddling - the US president, meddling in Iranian elections.

Obama shows himself to be a wise student of history by taking this stance. The last time the Iranian people had a functioning democracy was under Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh. Following efforts by Mossadegh to nationalize the oil industry, American and British intelligence agencies organized astroturf protests and eventually had him overthrown. What followed was the brutal reign of the autocratic Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

Most Iranians view the Shah's reign as a very dark period of their history, and they harbor resentment against the American government for organizing the coup that toppled their last truly freely and democratically elected government. Which is why if the United States chose to intervene in this election on behalf of the protesters, hard-liners within Iran could easily portray the student movement as nothing more than the sort of demonstrations that acted as tools of the Western governments to overthrow Iran's government in 1953. This would ultimately undermine the pro-democracy movement within Iran and turn public support towards Iranian reactionaries.

Based on Terror Free Tomorrow Poll, Ahmadinejad Victory Was Expected

Judging from commentary in the blogosphere, many Americans are already convinced by suggestions that have been carried in the media that the Presidential election in Iran was stolen. [Some press reports have been a bit more careful: the lead paragraph of the front page story in Sunday's New York Times says that "it is impossible to know for sure" if the result reflects the popular will.]

But the evidence that has been presented so far that the election was stolen has not been convincing.

Iran does not allow independent international election observers, and there is a scarcity of independent, systematic data.

But shortly before the election, Terror Free Tomorrow and the New America Foundation published a poll that was financed by the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation. Based on this poll, the official result - a victory for Ahmadinejad in the first round - was entirely predictable. "Ahmadinejad Front Runner in Upcoming Presidential Elections," the poll reported.

The poll was conducted between May 11 and May 20, and claimed a margin of error of 3.1%. Among its respondents, 34% said they would vote for incumbent President Ahmadinejad, 14% said they would vote for Mir Hussein Moussavi, 2% said they would vote for Mehdi Karroubi, and 1% said they would vote for Mohsen Rezai. Declared support for these four candidates represented 51% of the sample; 27% of the sample said they didn't know who they would vote for. [This accounts for 78% of the sample; the survey report doesn't explicitly characterize the other 22% of the sample, but presumably they were divided between those who did not intend to vote and those who refused to respond to the question.

With IMF Money, the War Supplemental Could Fail in the House

Last month, 60 Members of the House of Representatives, including 51 Democrats, voted against the war supplemental for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. But this week, when the House is expected to consider the agreement of a House-Senate conference on the war funding, the supplemental could well be defeated on the floor of the House - if most of the 51 anti-war Democrats stick to their no vote - which they might, if they hear from their constituents.

The key thing that's changed is the Treasury Department's insistence that the war supplemental include a $100 billion bailout for the International Monetary Fund - a bailout for European banks facing big losses in Eastern Europe, the international version of the Wall Street bailout.

House Republicans, including Minority Leader John Boehner, have threatened to vote no on the war funding if the IMF money is attached. If Boehner could bring all the Republicans with him, and if all the Democrats who voted no last month voted no again, the war supplemental would fail on the floor of the House, 200-228.

But not every Democrat who voted no before will vote no now, and therein lies the drama. The House leadership didn't need those anti-war Democrats before, so in a way it was a "free vote" - 51 Democrats could vote on behalf of their anti-war constituents without running afoul of the leadership. But if Treasury insists on the IMF money, and Republicans vote no, the leadership will need 18 of those Democrats now.

JFP News, 6/3: With IMF Money, War Supplemental Could Be Defeated in the House

Just Foreign Policy News
June 3, 2009


With IMF Money Included, the War Supplemental Can Be Defeated in the House
Last month, 60 Members of the House of Representatives voted against the war supplemental. But this week the supplemental could be defeated on the floor of the House. The key thing that's changed is Treasury's insistence the supplemental include a $100 billion bailout for the IMF - a bailout for European banks facing big losses in Eastern Europe, the international version of the Wall Street bailout. House Republicans have threatened to vote no on the war funding if the IMF money is attached. If all Republicans vote no, and if all the Democrats who voted no last month vote no again, the war supplemental would fail on the floor of the House, 200-228. Call your Representative and urge them to vote no on the war/IMF supplemental. The Congressional switchboard is 202-225-3121; asked to be connected to your Representative's office.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/with-imf-money-the-war-su_b_210738.html

In Cairo, Obama Can Win With Changed U.S. Policies Towards Palestine and Iran
If Obama highlights his strong opposition to Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, his support for Palestinian statehood in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, his sustained diplomatic engagement with Iran, and his willingness to work with whoever wins the upcoming Lebanese and Iranian elections, he can change perceptions of the United States in the region.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/node/221

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JFP News, 6/2: Newsweek's Zakaria Supports International Uranium Enrichment in Iran

Just Foreign Policy News
June 2, 2009


In Cairo, Obama Can Win With Changed U.S. Policies Towards Palestine and Iran
President Obama has the opportunity to make history in Cairo on Thursday, the kind of history Eisenhower made when he rebuked the 1956 invasion of Egypt by Britain, France and Israel. Eisenhower's stand won tremendous goodwill for the U.S. in the Arab world. If Obama stands firm on his policy differences with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, he can win tremendous goodwill for the U.S. in the Arab and Muslim world. If Obama highlights his strong opposition to Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, his support for Palestinian statehood in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, his sustained diplomatic engagement with Iran, and his willingness to work with whoever wins the upcoming Lebanese and Iranian elections, he can change perceptions of the United States in the region.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/node/221

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U.S./Top News

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In Cairo, Obama Can Score With Changed U.S. Policies Towards Palestine and Iran

President Obama has the opportunity to make history in Cairo on Thursday, the kind of history that President Eisenhower made when he rebuked the 1956 invasion of Egypt by Britain, France and Israel. Eisenhower's stand won tremendous goodwill for the U.S. in the Arab world. If Obama stands firm on his policy differences with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, he can win tremendous goodwill for the U.S. in the Arab and Muslim world.

In the run-up to the speech, Obama has opened space between U.S. policy and Israeli government policy on relations with the Palestinians and on relations with Iran. The degree to which Obama can meaningfully differentiate the U.S. from the Netanyahu government in terms of policy will be a key determinant of whether he can convince Arab and Muslim audiences that the U.S. genuinely wants a different relationship with the Muslim world than it had during the Bush Administration. In Cairo, Obama will have the podium in the Arab and Muslim world in an unprecedented way. If Obama highlights his strong opposition to Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, his support for Palestinian statehood in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, his sustained diplomatic engagement with Iran, and his willingness to work with whoever wins the upcoming Lebanese and Iranian elections, he can change perceptions of the United States in the region.

On opposition to Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, Obama has staked out a clear position. Last week, Secretary of State Clinton said that President Obama:

JFP News, 6/1: NGOs Fight "Blank Check" for IMF

Just Foreign Policy News
June 1, 2009


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1) A broad coalition of civil society groups, as well as some lawmakers, is fighting a "blank check" from the U.S. to expand funding for the International Monetary Fund, Inter Press Service reports. Typically, the IMF requires recipient countries to reduce their budget deficits and increase interest rates, both of which can produce the opposite effect of the economic stimulus the funds are meant to provide. As a result, countries have been forced to cut essential social programs, like unemployment insurance. A Congressional letter from Rep. Waters calls for Congress to attach conditions on the IMF: ensuring that the IMF's new loans are stimulatory and not contractionary; using IMF gold sales to finance at least five billion dollars in debt relief and/or grants; and requiring parliamentary approval in the recipient countries before loans are extended. The letter has more than 33 signatures.

2) The Senate owes more than a pro forma confirmation of Gen. McChrystal as the next US commander in Afghanistan, writes the New York Times in an editorial. McChrystal, who goes before the Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, was commander of the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations teams in Afghanistan and Iraq from 2003 to 2008. Special Operations forces have been repeatedly linked to abusive interrogations. The Times says McChrystal has a responsibility to illuminate what went wrong, what if anything was done to stop these horrors, and what he intends to do to ensure that they are not repeated under his command in Afghanistan.

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Cuba: US Concedes World "May Have Changed" Since 1962

The Obama Administration has been praised and vilified for its legendary caution, typically depending on whether the speaker supports or opposes the direction in which caution is being applied.

But a recent proposal by the State Department to the Organization of American States regarding Cuba's re-entry to the OAS rises to the level of ludicrous understatement. The US proposal, along with proposals from Latin America for Cuba's re-entry, is to be considered at the OAS meeting in Honduras next week.

The US proposal concedes that "some of the circumstances since Cuba's suspension... may have changed," the Miami Herald reports.

Cuba was suspended from the OAS in 1962, based largely on its alliance with the Soviet Union.

Do they take newspaper delivery at the State Department? The Soviet Union has not existed for almost twenty years. Does that count as a circumstance that "may have changed"?

The Obama Administration has tacked back and forth. Many in Congress, the Cuban-American community, and the U.S. business community want the U.S. embargo on Cuba to be scrapped or substantially eliminated. But a diehard gang of aging Cuban-American Republican dead-enders is determined to make the Obama Administration pay dearly for any steps towards sanity.

Meanwhile, the Obama Administration is under intense pressure from Latin America to scrap the embargo. Cuba is the only Latin American or Caribbean nation excluded from the OAS, and the U.S. is the only country in the OAS that doesn't have full diplomatic relations with Cuba.

In March, OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza said Cuba should be readmitted.

Bloomberg reported:

Labor, House Dems Stall Panama Trade Deal

There's little question that the Obama Administration has tacked hard to the right on international economic policy since coming in to office. Its efforts to ram $100 billion for the International Monetary Fund through Congress via the war supplemental without reform language that would stop the IMF from making recessions worse through demands for budget cuts - as the IMF is now doing in Latvia - are just the most recent example.

But if the Wall Street boys thought they were just going to run the table on international economic policy in this administration, they had another think coming.

Bloomberg reports:

A U.S. trade accord with Panama, which is opposed by labor unions, won't be submitted to Congress for approval until President Barack Obama offers a new "framework" for trade, an administration official said.

The decision, announced by Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Everett Eissenstat at a Senate Finance Committee hearing today, is a reversal from statements in March that the U.S. wanted to pass the accord soon.

As Bloomberg notes, this announcement followed two key developments: