After securing a mild sanctions resolution at the U.N. Security Council against Iran earlier this week, the Obama Administration is now lobbying Congress to dilute pending Iran sanctions legislation. The administration wants the authority to waive penalties against companies that sell gasoline or other refined oil products to Iran if those companies are based in countries that have cooperated in imposing U.N. sanctions on Iran. This is viewed by many in Congress as another concession to Russia, China, and European countries that have resisted American efforts to impose much tougher sanctions on Iran.
The administration’s schizophrenic policy on Iran has long been apparent to Capitol Hill observers, but increasingly has frustrated even members of the President’s own party. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), who has been a leading advocate of stronger sanctions on Iran, complained that “The administration doesn’t carry out the laws that are on the books, and they want the new law to be as weak and loophole-ridden as possible.”
Republicans have been even more critical of the administration. Rep. Mike Pence, (R-IN) Chairman of the House Republican Conference, criticized the U.N. sanctions resolution and called for tougher U.S. sanctions: “The reality of what passed today bears out that we would have been better leading by example and showing the world what true punitive economic sanctions would have looked like.” Pence warned that “Our last, best hope is strong, immediate and punitive economic sanctions by the most powerful economy in the world.”
Congress also has become increasingly restless about other aspects of the Obama Administration’s soft approach to Iran policy. Last month the House Armed Services Committee approved an amendment to the defense appropriations bill offered by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) that requires the Department of Defense to develop a National Military Strategic Plan to prevent Iran’s hostile regime from building a nuclear weapon.
Despite growing congressional criticism, the Obama administration appears to be more concerned with watering down sanctions to make them more amenable to Russia, China, and European countries, than with maximizing their impact on Iran. Meanwhile, Iran’s centrifuges are relentlessly whirling away, producing the fissile material needed for a nuclear weapon.
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