Why is US gov't thwarting Iran sanctions bill?

The US government is stalling on one of the few remaining mechanisms for peacefully resolving the impasse with the Islamic Republic.

By MICHAEL M. ROSEN
March 18, 2010 00:18
4 minute read.
The Forbidden City, a Beijing landmark, is blanket

Forbidden City. (photo credit: AP)

In today’s Washington, it’s rare for any legislation to pass with bipartisan support, even rarer for such a bill to pass with massive bipartisan backing, and rarer still for such legislation to lie around gathering dust.

But not when it comes to Israel and Iran. Unfortunately, congressional leaders have bottled up a hugely popular Iran sanctions bill that passed both houses with overwhelming support. At precisely the moment that the Islamic Republic is expanding and perfecting its nuclear
capabilities, the highest levels of the US government have stalled on one of the few remaining mechanisms for peacefully resolving the impasse, and thus have abdicated their responsibilities to Israel, the subjugated Iranian people, and the rest of the free world.

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In December, amid endless delays and deception by the mullahs rivaled in their intensity only by the Obama administration’s zeal for a “negotiated solution” to the crisis, members of Congress finally decided to take real action. The House of Representatives passed the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act by a 412-12 vote, signaling the body’s prodigious bipartisan resolve to stifle Iran’s nuclear progress.

The bill would bolster the White House’s power to sanction any company assisting Iran in importing or refining petroleum; despite its vast natural gas and oil reserves, the Teheran regime imports up to 40 percent of its gasoline. Severe sanctions such as these can be
expected to bring the Iranian economy to a screeching halt.
 
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA), one of the measure’s sponsors, said with admirable vigor and forthrightness that “the big question is how soon will the international community conclude that without rigorous sanctions, the diplomatic approach gets nowhere.”

AIPAC declared that the bill “sends a strong message to Iran, and to our friends in the international community, that the United States has the will to act to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.”

Even J Street praised its passage.

Berman’s counterparts in the Senate carried the ball forward not long afterward, passing a very similar measure in January by unanimous voice vote.

“The Iranian regime has engaged in serious human rights abuses against its own citizens, funded terrorist activity throughout the Middle East, and pursued illicit nuclear activities posing a serious threat to the security of the United States and our allies,” thundered Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, who co-sponsored the measure with Republican Richard Shelby of Alabama. “With passage of this bill, we make it clear that there will be appropriate
consequences if these actions continue.”

MAINSTREAM ELECTED officials and pundits from across the political spectrum lauded Senate passage of the legislation. The National Jewish Democratic Council “enthusiastically applaud[ed]” the bill, as did the Republican Jewish Coalition.

All that remained for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, to make the bill a law was to “reconcile” the slightly different language in the separate Senate and House versions into a single piece of
legislation.

But instead, Reid and Pelosi have bottled up the measure and refused to allow a blending of the bills. Why? Because the Obama administration asked them to.

According to a reporter for Foreign Policy magazine, reconciliation of the Senate and House bills is “not expected until after the administration pursues a new UN resolution on Iran.”

That would be the same resolution the White House has been discussing ever since Obama took office some 14 months ago, but has still made no headway in obtaining.

Recall that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has sought to impose “crippling” sanctions on the Islamic Republic for as long as she’s resided in Foggy Bottom. But when Congress finally served up those crippling sanctions on a platter, she sent them back to the kitchen.

In deadening diplo-speak, a State Department spokesman claimed that the White House is trying to “make sure the president has sufficient flexibility to be able to work with other countries effectively for our shared goal of finding ways to put appropriate pressure on Iran to
change course.”

But the Obama administration’s much vaunted knack at promoting international harmony has hit yet another dead end, as China, among other countries, appears to be dead-set against another round of UN-sponsored sanctions.

In response, according to the Washington Post, the White House has urged congressional leaders to shred the petroleum sanctions bill by labeling China a “cooperating country” and carving out a gigantic exception for Chinese companies doing business with Teheran.

Congressional supporters of the sanctions act expressed predictable outrage at the maneuver.

“Given the Chinese-Iranian relationship, it’s hard to imagine a meaningful cooperating country exemption that China would fall into,” one aide commented.


Our foreign allies were even more perturbed. “We’re absolutely flabbergasted,” a senior official from a foreign country friendly to the United States told the Washington Post. “Tell me what exactly have the Chinese done to deserve this?”

Viewed from this perspective, and in light of the Obama administration’s recent pummeling of the Israeli government for building homes in Jerusalem, the White House’s reluctance to punish Teheran and its willingness to coddle Beijing begin to make sense. Obama and his foreign policy advisors have consistently shown themselves to be more solicitous of  America’s enemies than its allies, more willing to provoke our friends than to challenge our foes. And so far, this approach has succeeded only in emboldening opponents of the
United States while alienating its trusted partners.

As the nuclear clock continues to tick, let’s hope the administration begins to appreciate the consequences of its actions and omissions.

The writer is an attorney and Republican activist in San Diego.
Reach him at michaelmrosen@yahoo.com


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