The Cable

Reid promises swift action on Iran sanctions as conference begins

The House finally appointed conferees to meld the two already passed versions of the Iran sanctions bill and Congress is not waiting for the Obama administration to finish up with the UN track.

"We have waited long enough for diplomacy to work," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, said in a response to a question from The Cable at Thursday's press conference on financial reform, adding, "Iran is a festering sore in the world."

The House had not appointed conferees until just recently. They were accused of holding up the conference until the UN track had been exhausted, a charge chairman Howard Berman's office has denied.

Berman announced the House conferees today.

"Today marks a major step towards preventing Iran from acquiring the ability to produce nuclear weapons. Iran's intentions are clear, and now is the time to implement crippling sanctions on this reckless regime," he said in a statement, "We are moving forward to ensure that legislation enabling tough sanctions is on President Obama's desk for his signature."

The administration had been hoping that Congress would hold off on passing the conference report until it was able to get a new UN security council resolution authorizing new sanctions. The deadline for the UN track has slipped repeatedly and Reid was clear that he was no longer waiting for that process to play out.

Reid said he would bring the bill to the floor as soon as it comes out of conference and that he wants to see the conference finish up work "as soon as they can."

Last week, over two thirds of the House and Senate signed a letter to president Obama urging him to impose "crippling sanctions" on Iran immediately.

The House conferees are Howard Berman, D-CA, Gary Ackerman, D-NY, Brad Sherman, D-CA, Jim Costa, D-CA, David Scott, D-GA, Joseph Crowley, D-NY, Ron Klein, D-FL, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-FL, Dan Burton, R-IN, Edward Royce, R-CA, Mike Pence, R-IN, Barney Frank, D-MA, Gregory Meeks, D-NY, Scott Garrett, R-NJ, Sander Levin, D-MI, John S. Tanner, D-TN and Dave Camp, R-MI.

The Senate conferees are Chris Dodd, D-CT, John Kerry, D-MA, Joe Lieberman, I-CT, Robert Menendez, D-NJ, Richard Shelby, R-AL, Bob Bennett, R-UT, and Richard Lugar, R-IN.

The Cable

Holbrooke takes a swipe at U.N. diplomat

Speaking at an event Monday previewing Sergio, HBO's forthcoming film about the life and tragic death of U.N. diplomat Sergio Vieira de Mello, U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke took what appeared to be an unplanned sideswipe at Kai Eide, the former head of the U.N. mission in Kabul.

"A few days ago I was in Kabul with General Petraeus, and we had 300 people gathered in a conference room at the airport to discuss civilian military relations in Afghanistan going forward," Holbrooke said.

"And we had the U.N. representative there with us, Staffan de Mistura, who had come from Iraq ... a very good man, and we're very fortunate to have him. He's a substantial step forward over what preceded him."

"And the issue came up in the meeting of what to do about the elections coming up in Afghanistan. And the issue was: If there's a piece of bad news to give to the government, who will give it? And de Mistura said something that I thought kind of reflected the dilemma that the U.N. [faces]. ... He said, ‘We get paid to get blamed for delivering the bad news on behalf of everyone else.' I think it's a line he's used before."