In Israel, the worst thing you can possibly be is a freier, the Yiddish for “a sucker.” Over there, it applies to anyone willing to wait in line for anything, believe in ideas optimistically, or pay too much for anything at the shuk. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took this freier concept to the United States on a recent smarm offensive, during which he sought to debunk the goodwill garnered by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Bibi spoke sarcastically at the United Nations about Iran’s dubious intentions and then visited the White House to convince President Obama that pressure on Iran should not be lessened even as a diplomatic initiative seems to be underway.
Whether we can credit Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or not, Secretary of State John Kerry said something suspiciously Bibi-esque today in affirming that the United States would increase sanctions on Iran if substantial steps weren’t undertaken by the country to slow its uranium enrichment.
Speaking in Tokyo, Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters the U.S. would not be played for “suckers” by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Still, Kerry defended President Barack Obama’s recent engagement effort.
The Senate Banking Committee is expected to draft a new sanctions package later this month, mirroring legislation passed by the House in July that blacklists Iran’s mining and construction sectors and commits the United States to the goal of eliminating all Iranian petroleum sales worldwide by 2015. The administration had expressed concern about the sanctions undercutting Rouhani with hardliners in his own country or weakening the international consensus on Iran, given that China, Turkey, India and several other Asian countries still purchase oil from Tehran.
The new sanctions, in the form of trade restrictions, would ostensibly go forward if a meeting set for mid-October between the P5+1 Group and Iran in Geneva doesn’t bear fruit. Plenty of people have been skeptical of Iran’s new diplomatic initiative for plenty of good reasons. This should come as welcome news.
Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.