Last Friday, Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Howard Berman, its ranking Democrat, joined forces to introduce a bill that would go a long way toward tightening sanctions on Iran. The legislation would effectively prevent American firms from doing business with any entity that does $1 million in a single trade with Iran’s energy sector, or $5 million over one year. The bill would broaden existing sanctions against alleged human rights violators as well as with financial institutions that deal with Iran.
That ought to mean that the tyrants of Tehran will be squeezed even more in the months to come making it harder for them to continue their policies of exporting terror to the Middle East via their Hamas and Hezbollah allies as well as impacting their dangerous plans for nuclear capability. Except that it won’t. As even Ros-Lehtinen and Berman admitted after introducing their bill, sanctions passed by Congress that are not enforced by the executive branch are basically meaningless.
This is not the first Iran sanctions bill passed by Congress. Last year, another, less stringent sanctions law was passed. But the problem with that bill was not so much that it was weaker than the new bill but that the Obama administration wouldn’t enforce it. As the New York Times reported last December, the Treasury Department has granted over 10,000 exemptions from Iran sanctions in the last decade. The waivers that each sanctions bill includes, give the administration the power to allow companies to ignore our policy on Iran. This process has escalated during the Obama administration. The administration’s willingness to grant waivers has made a mockery of even the mild sanctions that are already in place. That renders the expected passage of the new sanctions bill a mere act of symbolism that will once again impress upon the Iranians America’s lack of seriousness.
Meanwhile, the Iranians continue their terrorism export business in the Middle East while expanding their horizons into South America. On the same day that the new Iran sanctions bill was introduced in the House, the German newspaper Die Welt reported that Iran was building missile-launching sites in Venezuela for their ally Hugo Chavez. The purpose of the rockets will be to present a deterrent to American or Israeli strikes on Iranian targets. Though this is a clear violation of the Monroe Doctrine, it’s unlikely that the Obama administration will take action about this new Iranian threat.
Tehran’s provocations and threats continue to pose a danger not only to the Middle East but also to the world. But there’s no sign that the Obama administration is prepared to act as if it took those threats seriously.