US seeks to tighten squeeze on Iran before talks

Congress members call to enforce sanctions against foreign companies doing business with Teheran.

By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER
December 10, 2010 23:47
3 minute read.
Iranian technicians at Bushehr nuclear power plant

Iran Reactor 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

 
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WASHINGTON – The top nuclear adviser at the White House says the US wanted to continue to increase pressure on Iran through sanctions in coming days so that Teheran doesn’t exploit the diplomatic process.

White House Coordinator for Weapons of Mass Destruction, Counter-Terrorism and Arms Control Gary Samore indicated additional measures could come before the follow-up meeting next month to direct nuclear talks between Iran, the US and other influential countries held this week, the first in more than a year.

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“In the wake of the Geneva talks, we and our allies are determined to maintain and even increase pressure,” Samore said while addressing a Foundation for Defense of Democracies conference on Friday. “We need to send the message to Iran that sanctions will only increase as Iran avoids serious negotiations, and will not be lifted until our concerns are fully addressed.”

Samore wouldn’t detail what specific steps are under consideration, but several members of Congress have entered new legislation which would take measures such as limiting Iran’s ability to export crude oil and forcing companies to publicly disclose their dealings with Iran.

In addition, many members have been calling for more aggressive enforcement of the sanctions passed by Congress in July, which penalize foreign companies entering into certain types of business with Iran.

“Amazingly, the administration has so far sanctioned only one entity,” charged Senator-elect Mark Kirk (RIllinois) at the FDD forum on Thursday, rattling off a list of two dozen companies he believed qualified for US sanctions.

Kirk also spoke of the importance of giving Israel the most advanced missile warning and defense systems available.



“I proposed we dramatically upgrade Israel’s capability with the best the US has,” he said, speaking of advanced radar technology.

Samore agreed that missile defense was a key priority. Globally, he said, “We have an obligation to put in place an effective missile defense system.” He also assessed that Iran was having more success with its missile program than its nuclear program, making it a pressing concern.

He said he was unfamiliar, however, with reports that Iran has plans to deliver medium-range missiles to Venezuela with capabilities to strike the US. But he stressed, “We have a very intensive program in place to intercept and prevent arms sales from Iran from taking place so we’re continuing to do that.” He also contended that while the talks in Geneva this week yielded few results, already the record on sanctions has been strong.

According to Samore, sanctions have had significant results since the international ban on Iran’s acquisition of essential parts and technology for its nuclear program has been slowing their progress.
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“Sanctions have a direct impact on the pace of Iran’s nuclear program, by making it more difficult for Iran to obtain the central materials and components for its nuclear program,” he said.

Still, speaking at a panel before Samore, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Ya’acov Amidror, former commander of the IDF’s National Defense College and the IDF Staff and Command College, noted Israel’s deep skepticism that sanctions would succeed in stopping Iran’s nuclear program.

“It’s almost impossible to stop Iran without military force, but we should not rush to use [it]” without having tried absolutely everything else, he said.

In preparation for such a last-resort scenario, he indicated that Israel had drawn up plans for such an attack.

“We’ll be ready,” he said.

But he noted the limitations of Israel’s capabilities, saying that a naval blockade or strikes on targets other than Iran’s nuclear facilities were beyond the capacity of the Israeli military.

Though those types of actions, if taken, would have to be done by America, he stressed that Israel wouldn’t ask the US to undertake a military operation it didn’t perceive to be in US national interests.

“We are not pushing America to take military action,” he said. “Israel is not asking for someone else to do the job of protecting Israel.”

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