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Iran nuclear program: On sanctions, Congress ahead of Obama

The House and Senate are progressing with bipartisan legislation to impose sanctions in response to the Iran nuclear program. But President Obama faces difficulties in the UN Security Council.

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Iran moving toward nuclear capability

But those concerns appear to be losing whatever support they had in Congress, especially as reports continue to surface of Iran’s progress towards nuclear capability. Another factor is Iran’s PR effort to derail the UN sanctions effort, which appears to be getting traction with countries like Turkey and Brazil.

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Typifying congressional sentiment are remarks that US Rep. Howard Berman (D) of California, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, made in a floor speech last week: “We need the strongest possible sanctions, and we need them fast.”

The rare voices of opposition to congressional action on tough Iran sanctions come from members who are less concerned that the measures would tie the Obama administration’s hands, than that they risk hurting the Iranian public and putting the US on a path to war.

Also speaking on the floor last week, US Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D) of Ohio said, “The leaders of Iran aren’t going to want for gasoline, but the people of Iran are going to suffer…. Will this cause them to turn against their government?” he asked, “or will it cause them to turn against the US and our efforts to bring about a cessation of Iran’s nuclear program?”

Drums of war?

US Rep. Ron Paul (R) of Texas, on the other hand, hears war drums – similar to those that were beating before the US-led invasion of Iraq – when calls for swift and tough sanctions on Iran arise.

Calling such talk “propaganda to speed us to war against Iran,” Mr. Paul last week chastised his colleagues for repeated warnings like, “We cannot afford to sit around and wait for Iran to detonate a nuclear weapon.”

He then added, “Where have we heard that before? Anyone remember then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s oft repeated quip about Iraq: that we cannot wait for the smoking gun to appear as a mushroom cloud?”

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