Impatient Congress strikes out on its own to sanction Iran
Members of both parties proposed sanctions this week, saying the Obama administration isn't going far enough.
Growing impatient with the Obama administration’s Iran policy, members of Congress from both parties are proposing a variety of get-tough measures of their own. The moves, which include both sanctions and anti-regime legislation, come despite President Obama’s shift from emphasizing diplomatic outreach last year to favoring passage of a new round of international economic sanctions against the Iranian regime.Skip to next paragraph
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Congress’s raft of responses came after Tehran’s decision this week to begin processing high-enriched uranium – a move that could eventually result in the fuel for a nuclear weapon. Also, on Thursday, Tehran repressed opposition protests marking the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Republic.
The proposed legislation generally goes further than a White House that sees its shift toward sanctions as a way to pressure Tehran into dialogue. They range from a sanctions bill aimed at the Iranian regime’s human rights’ abuses to another calling for overt American support of pro-democracy elements and regime change.
“The administration is focused now on getting some sanctions resolution out of the [United Nations] Security Council, but what we see coming from some prominent members of Congress goes well beyond the watered-down resolution that’s likely to come out of an effort focused on getting China and Russia on board,” says Mark Dubowitz, an Iran sanctions expert and executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington.
Administrations often grate at such efforts from the Hill and would prefer that Congress leave foreign-policy matters such as international sanctions to the executive branch. The Obama administration is no different, concerned especially that Congress’s emphasis on Tehran’s human rights abuses could make it harder for the US to win China over to supporting international economic sanctions, or to keep Russia on board.
But Mr. Dubowitz says the Congress, with its tough bills and talk of regime change, is also playing the useful role of “bad cop” as the administration takes a “good cop” cooperative stance within the Security Council negotiations on Iran. He predicts, however, that once the Security Council process is finished, both the US and some European countries will move ahead with tougher Iran measures of their own – some of it, in the case of the US, reflecting the current congressional proposals.
In comments on congressional sanctions legislation earlier this week, State Department spokesman Phillip Crowley was careful to note that congressional efforts rightly reflect the “seriousness by which not only the executive branch, but the legislative branch views current developments with respect to Iran.”