Committees move forward on Iran sanctions

 In Hillary Clinton, Iran, Obama

Two key committees in Congress have marked up Iran sanctions legislation, getting out in front of the Obama administration as it continues to pursue negotiations:

Asked during a CNN interview whether it was time to stop talking with Iran and move toward sanctions, Clinton said: “We are working with the IAEA (the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency), with France, Russia … who are all united and showing resolve in responding to the Iranian response and seeking clarification. So I’m going to let this process play out.”

Clinton did not say under what conditions the United States would consider fresh sanctions against Iran.

The Senate Banking Committee passed similar broad sanctions this week that seek

to prevent Iran from importing refined petroleum products, penalizes U.S. firms for helping Iran do so, bans contracts for companies to give Iran technology that could be used to censor free speech, allows states to divest from Iran, and much more.

The National Iranian American Council notes objections raised to the sanctions legislation by Sen. Corker (R-TN):

“This is a tacit vote of no confidence [against the Obama administration],” Corker said.  During an exchange with a colleague after the vote, Corker revealed the “State Department actually did not want to see this happen.”

In addition, the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act (H.R. 2194) by voice vote this week. In his opening statement, Rep. Berman (D-CA), who chairs the committee, noted that

All of us are aware that if the provisions of this bill are ever implemented, they would likely have a significant impact on the Iranian economy, including quite possibly on average Iranians. While that is a distasteful prospect, the urgency of dealing with the Iranian nuclear project — and the immense danger that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to tens, if not hundreds, of million people who will fall within the range of its missiles – compels us to go forward with this legislation. Should its implementation prove necessary, it would be our hope that the Iranian regime would come to its senses and suspend its enrichment program at the earliest possible time.

Peace Action West has noted the many reasons why the sanctions being proposed are counterproductive, including the fact that they are likely to cause Iranians to blame the US and not their own government. Recent polls show that the Iranian public still strongly favors enrichment, even while expecting that harsher sanctions are likely to be placed on them. It’s unlikely the Iranian public will start pushing the regime to halt all uranium enrichment anytime soon. The Obama administration knows diplomacy is the best option to resolve tensions between the US and Iran. As the administration continues to let negotiations “play out,” Congress should hold back from actions like sanctions that threaten to undermine the this delicate process.

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