The Cable

Senate passes dozens of bills in the middle of the night

Early Saturday morning, the Senate finally acted to pass a host of legislative items and confirm a slate of ambassadors, just before leaving town ahead of the 2012 election.

Following days of stalemate caused by Sen. Rand Paul's insistence on a floor vote to on his bill to cut all aid to Pakistan, Egypt, and Libya, a deal was finally struck Friday to give Paul his vote as part of a package that included a vote on Sen. Lindsey Graham's resolution establishing the sense of the Senate that containing a nuclear Iran is not an option for U.S. policy.

The Paul bill was defeated 10-81. The Graham resolution, also led by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Bob Casey (D-PA), passed 90-1, with only Paul voting against it.

The deal also included a vote to pass, by a 62-30 margin, the continuing resolution to keep the government funding past Oct. 1 and a cloture vote on Sen. Jon Tester's "Sportsmen's Act," a bill to relax restrictions on hunting on federal lands, which succeeded 84-7. A final vote on that bill will be the first item of business when the Senate reconvenes Nov. 13.

Other foreign-policy items passed early Saturday morning included a Senate resolution (S.Res. 466) calling for the release from prison of former Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and a bill (S.Con.Res.50) expressing the sense of the Senate that U.S. policy should be to keep the Internet free from government control around the world. Both of those were approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week.

The Senate also passed by unanimous consent a bill to give the Obama administration the flexibility to vote yes on lending to Burma in international financial institutions. The administration was not permitted to support such lending under previously imposed legislative sanctions, and this action represents significant sanctions relief timed with last week's visit to Washington by longtime dissident leader Aung San Suu Kyi, now a member of the Burmese legislature.

The Senate also passed a bill (S.3341) to support implementation of the State Department's Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, a bill to make Oct. 26 the "Day of the Deployed" to honor service members, and a resolution "commending the 4 American public servants who died in Benghazi, Libya, United States Ambassador to Libya John Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty, for their tireless efforts on behalf of the American people, and condemning the violent attack on the United States consulate in Benghazi."

Several ambassadors were confirmed just before Senators left town, including Sharon English Woods Villaros to be ambassador to Mauritius and the Seychelles, Dawn Liberi to be ambassador to Burundi, Stephen Mull to be ambassador to Poland, Walter North to be ambassador to Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu, Richard Olson to be ambassador to Pakistan,
Joseph E. Macmanus to be the U.S. representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, and Robert Stephen Beecroft to be ambassador to Iraq.

The Senate also conferred the rank of "career ambassador" on three State Department officials: Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement William Brownfield, Ambassador to Thailand Kristie Kenney, and Ambassador to Brazil Tom Shannon.

The Cable

Romney changes his red lines on Iran on rabbi call

On a conference call with American rabbis Thursday evening, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney altered his position on what "red lines" he would set for Iran before deciding military action was necessary.

"Your good friend Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu says that the international community needs to draw a red line for Iran. Do you agree that a red line needs to be drawn, and where would you draw it?," Rabbi Efrem Goldberg asked on the call, a recording of which was provided to The Cable.

"With regards to the red line, I would imagine Prime Minister Netanyahu is referring to a red line over which if Iran crossed it would take military action. And for me, it is unacceptable or Iran to have the capability of building a nuclear weapon, which they could use in the Middle East or elsewhere," Romney said. "So for me, the red line is nuclear capability. We do not want them to have the capacity of building a bomb that threatens ourselves, our friends, and the world."

"Exactly where those red lines [should be drawn] is something which, I guess, I wouldn't want to get into in great detail, but you understand they are defined by the Iranian capability to have not only fissile material, but bomb making capability and rocketry," Romney said.

Romney's remark that the United States should take military action if Iran develops nuclear weapons "capability" matches what many GOP leaders and pro-Israel groups have publicly stated, but it stands in contrast to the "red line" Romney set out in a Sept. 14 interview with ABC News.

"My red line is Iran may not have a nuclear weapon," Romney told network host George Stephanopoulos. "It is inappropriate for them to have the capacity to terrorize the world.  Iran with a nuclear weapon or with fissile material that can be given to Hezbollah or Hamas or others has the potential of not just destabilizing the Middle East. But it could be brought here."

Asked if his red line was the same as President Obama's, Romney told ABC, "Yes."

Rabbi Goldberg also asked Romney what exactly he would do differently than the current administration to prevent a nuclear Iran. Romney offered few specifics. He referenced his January 2007 speech at the Herzliya Conference, where he called for several specific measures.

"We recently have done one of them, which is getting crippling sanctions. It's taken a long time to finally come around to that, but that is one of the key elements to changing Iran's course," Romney said. "Sanctions are having an impact on their economy. Unfortunately, they took so long to be put in place that I think Iran is racing forward with their nuclear plans."

He said he would increase the credibility of the military option and U.S. support for dissidents in Iran.

He also called for the indictment of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for "genocide."

"I think we should indict Ahmadinejad under the Genocide Convention for incitation of genocide," Romney said. "I think that he and the diplomats in Iran should be treated like the pariah[s] they are ... I believe they should be treated the same way we treated South Africa during apartheid."

In the call, Romney did not address the controversy over his remarks at a May fundraiser where he all but counted out the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In a hidden camera video posted by Mother Jones magazine, Romney told a group of donors in May that Palestinians "have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace," and that a two-state solution is "almost unthinkable to accomplish."

"We have a potentially volatile situation but we sort of live with it, and we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it," Romney said.

"But I always keep open: the idea of pushing on the Israelis to give something up to get the Palestinians to act is the worst idea in the world. We have done that time and time and time again. It does not work," Romney said to the donors. "So the only answer is show them strength. American strength, American resolve, and the Palestinians will some day reach the point where they want peace more than we're trying to force peace on them. Then it's worth having the discussion. So until then, it's just wistful thinking."

Addressing the tension between the Obama and Netanyahu governments, Romney said Thursday, "Our relationship with Israel should be one which the world sees as being extraordinarily close ... and if per chance there are disagreements, we keep those disagreements to ourselves and in private, as opposed to airing them out in public."

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