Congress grows impatient on Iran, N. Korea, vows action
Tired of President Obama's cautious approach, lawmakers look to sanction the two regimes.
Some members of Congress, increasingly impatient with the Obama administration's "give diplomacy a chance" stance toward Iran and North Korea, are pressing for new punitive measures against those countries.Skip to next paragraph
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This week the House Appropriations Committee attached an amendment to the 2010 foreign operations appropriations bill that would direct the Export-Import Bank to cut off US loan guarantees to certain companies doing business with Iran, particularly in the petroleum sector.
On Wednesday, Sen. Sam Brownback (R) of Kansas called on the Obama administration to use measures included in the Patriot Act to designate North Korea a "primary concern" of the US over its money-laundering networks. That would authorize the Treasury Department to take steps on the issue.
The two measures follow several months in which congressional attempts to sanction the regimes stalled as the Obama administration argued for time to see if international diplomacy would produce any results. The overriding concern in both cases is the regimes' nuclear programs.
But Iran's recent crackdown on protesters disputing the June 12 presidential election has galvanized many in Congress, especially Republicans critical of President Obama's initial response to the Iranian repression. North Korea's unabated belligerence in the wake of toughened UN sanctions – in particular Pyongyang's threat to launch a missile toward Hawaii – has had a similar effect.
"There's a new mood on Capitol Hill, especially in light of the crackdown in Iran," says Orde Kittrie, a law professor and expert in nuclear proliferation and sanctions at Arizona State University in Tucson.