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Impotent Measures Against Iran

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won grudging praise even from the Wall Street Journal editorial board for managing to reach agreement with China and Russia on a UN Security Council sanctions resolution against Iran. That accomplishment was touted as undercutting Iran’s attempts to avoid a fresh round of sanctions by agreeing to export some of its enriched uranium in a deal brokered by Turkey and Brazil. But now the details of the sanctions resolution are emerging and they are even worse than expected.

As the New York Times notes, “What is notably absent from the draft resolution, however, is any binding restriction on transactions with Iran’s central bank.” Nor is there any binding language limiting Iran’s oil trade, the basis of its entire rotten regime. As the Wall Street Journal notes: “The resolution — which followed 20 rounds of ‘hard bargaining,’ said Chinese diplomats quoted by the state-run Xinhua news agency — puts no direct restrictions on investing in Iran’s energy sector. That should allow Chinese oil companies to continue working in Iran, and China to continue consuming Iranian oil. Iran was the third-biggest supplier of oil to China last year after Saudi Arabia and Angola.” Oh, and the sanctions resolution even lacks a total ban on weapons sales to Iran.

That rather undercuts the Obama administration’s naive rationale for reaching out to the mullahs last year even as their own people were rebelling against them. The administration claimed that an outreach effort in good faith would make it easier to rally world opinion in favor of tough sanctions. Skeptics (myself included) were never convinced that countries like Russia and China would agree to binding sanctions under any circumstances. That skepticism certainly seems warranted now.

Given the weak nature of the latest sanctions resolution, one wonders, “What’s the point?” Certainly no serious analyst can possibly imagine that this will stop the Iranians from going nuclear. At most it provides a talking point for the administration to claim that it’s doing something about Iran’s nuclear program while in fact avoiding tough action – such as imposing sanctions on Shell, Total, and other Western oil companies that, according to the Wall Street Journal, continue to trade with Iran. Such sanctions are already possible under the 1996 Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, which would be strengthened by legislation that has already passed both houses. But the Obama administration shows no interest in implementing such tough measures. Instead, we are left with empty posturing. One suspects that the president has already decided that a nuclear Iran is a done deal and that the U.S. should concentrate on containment and deterrence rather than on prevention. If so, I wish the White House would just come out and say so rather than pretending that this new sanctions resolution will achieve anything.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won grudging praise even from the Wall Street Journal editorial board for managing to reach agreement with China and Russia on a UN Security Council sanctions resolution against Iran. That accomplishment was touted as undercutting Iran’s attempts to avoid a fresh round of sanctions by agreeing to export some of its enriched uranium in a deal brokered by Turkey and Brazil. But now the details of the sanctions resolution are emerging and they are even worse than expected.

As the New York Times notes, “What is notably absent from the draft resolution, however, is any binding restriction on transactions with Iran’s central bank.” Nor is there any binding language limiting Iran’s oil trade, the basis of its entire rotten regime. As the Wall Street Journal notes: “The resolution — which followed 20 rounds of ‘hard bargaining,’ said Chinese diplomats quoted by the state-run Xinhua news agency — puts no direct restrictions on investing in Iran’s energy sector. That should allow Chinese oil companies to continue working in Iran, and China to continue consuming Iranian oil. Iran was the third-biggest supplier of oil to China last year after Saudi Arabia and Angola.” Oh, and the sanctions resolution even lacks a total ban on weapons sales to Iran.

That rather undercuts the Obama administration’s naive rationale for reaching out to the mullahs last year even as their own people were rebelling against them. The administration claimed that an outreach effort in good faith would make it easier to rally world opinion in favor of tough sanctions. Skeptics (myself included) were never convinced that countries like Russia and China would agree to binding sanctions under any circumstances. That skepticism certainly seems warranted now.

Given the weak nature of the latest sanctions resolution, one wonders, “What’s the point?” Certainly no serious analyst can possibly imagine that this will stop the Iranians from going nuclear. At most it provides a talking point for the administration to claim that it’s doing something about Iran’s nuclear program while in fact avoiding tough action – such as imposing sanctions on Shell, Total, and other Western oil companies that, according to the Wall Street Journal, continue to trade with Iran. Such sanctions are already possible under the 1996 Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, which would be strengthened by legislation that has already passed both houses. But the Obama administration shows no interest in implementing such tough measures. Instead, we are left with empty posturing. One suspects that the president has already decided that a nuclear Iran is a done deal and that the U.S. should concentrate on containment and deterrence rather than on prevention. If so, I wish the White House would just come out and say so rather than pretending that this new sanctions resolution will achieve anything.

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Iran Sanctions Pass the Senate

The president in his SOTU virtually ignored the greatest national security threat of our time: the growing danger that an Islamic revolutionary regime will acquire nuclear weapons. Fortunately, the Senate didn’t wait around for the Obami to act. This report explains:

The US Senate voted Thursday to slap tough new sanctions on Iran, targeting its thirst for gasoline imports in a bid to force Tehran to bow to global pressure to freeze its suspect nuclear program.

“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,” said Democratic Senator Chris Dodd.

“With passage of this bill, we make it clear that there will be appropriate consequences if these actions continue,” said Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and a key sponsor of the legislation.

The bill will need to be reconciled with the House version. The Senate’s bill contains robust measures, the sort candidate Obama seemed to favor on the campaign trail:

It also requires that the president report to congress when non-US companies become eligible for sanctions, under a 1996 law that punishes investments of more than 20 million dollars in Iran’s energy sector.

Iran gets most of its gasoline imports from the Swiss firm Vitol, the Swiss/Dutch firm Trafigura, France’s Total, the Swiss firm Glencore and British Petroleum, as well as the Indian firm Reliance.

The measure also expands the 1996 law to cover oil and gas pipelines and tankers, and requires the administration to freeze the assets of any Iranians, including members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, found to be active in weapons proliferation or terrorism.

It would also enable US investors, including states’ pension funds, to divest from energy firms that do business with Iran.

It would prohibit the US government from purchasing goods from firms that do business in Iran’s energy sector, or provide sensitive communications technology to Iran — a measure that could affect telecommunications giants Siemens and Nokia.

It seems that the Senate is growing impatient with China and Russia, which show no sign of joining in multilateral measures, and also with the Obami, who have made an art of foot-dragging. As Sen. Mitch McConnell pointed out, “The Iranian regime has shown no interest in limiting its nuclear ambitions. And an entire year was lost as Iran moved closer and closer to its goal.”

Let’s see what Obama does when the bill lands on his desk. He has been unable to hold the Congress at bay, no doubt to the disappointment of the pin-prick sanctions set at Foggy Bottom, which searches for those measures that pack the least punch. Obama may be yanked against his will from his engagement cocoon. But make no mistake: there is no consensus in the U.S. Congress for perpetuating the Obami’s current do-nothingism. There’s also only so much engagement fabulism that even liberal Democratic lawmakers can take. Good for them. Let’s see if it shakes them awake at the White House.

The president in his SOTU virtually ignored the greatest national security threat of our time: the growing danger that an Islamic revolutionary regime will acquire nuclear weapons. Fortunately, the Senate didn’t wait around for the Obami to act. This report explains:

The US Senate voted Thursday to slap tough new sanctions on Iran, targeting its thirst for gasoline imports in a bid to force Tehran to bow to global pressure to freeze its suspect nuclear program.

“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,” said Democratic Senator Chris Dodd.

“With passage of this bill, we make it clear that there will be appropriate consequences if these actions continue,” said Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and a key sponsor of the legislation.

The bill will need to be reconciled with the House version. The Senate’s bill contains robust measures, the sort candidate Obama seemed to favor on the campaign trail:

It also requires that the president report to congress when non-US companies become eligible for sanctions, under a 1996 law that punishes investments of more than 20 million dollars in Iran’s energy sector.

Iran gets most of its gasoline imports from the Swiss firm Vitol, the Swiss/Dutch firm Trafigura, France’s Total, the Swiss firm Glencore and British Petroleum, as well as the Indian firm Reliance.

The measure also expands the 1996 law to cover oil and gas pipelines and tankers, and requires the administration to freeze the assets of any Iranians, including members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, found to be active in weapons proliferation or terrorism.

It would also enable US investors, including states’ pension funds, to divest from energy firms that do business with Iran.

It would prohibit the US government from purchasing goods from firms that do business in Iran’s energy sector, or provide sensitive communications technology to Iran — a measure that could affect telecommunications giants Siemens and Nokia.

It seems that the Senate is growing impatient with China and Russia, which show no sign of joining in multilateral measures, and also with the Obami, who have made an art of foot-dragging. As Sen. Mitch McConnell pointed out, “The Iranian regime has shown no interest in limiting its nuclear ambitions. And an entire year was lost as Iran moved closer and closer to its goal.”

Let’s see what Obama does when the bill lands on his desk. He has been unable to hold the Congress at bay, no doubt to the disappointment of the pin-prick sanctions set at Foggy Bottom, which searches for those measures that pack the least punch. Obama may be yanked against his will from his engagement cocoon. But make no mistake: there is no consensus in the U.S. Congress for perpetuating the Obami’s current do-nothingism. There’s also only so much engagement fabulism that even liberal Democratic lawmakers can take. Good for them. Let’s see if it shakes them awake at the White House.

Read Less




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