Does the Obama administration support more sanctions on Iran or not? (FP) FOREIGN POLICY) By Josh Rogin 04/17/12)
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A new set of sanctions against Iran is pending in the Senate, but the
Obama administration refuses to say whether or not it supports the
legislation as negotiations with Tehran resume.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said today that he still
intends to move as soon as possible to pass the Johnson-Shelby Iran
Sanctions, Accountability and Human Rights Act of 2012, named for
Finance Committee heads Sens. Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Richard Shelby
(R-AL), that was approved by the committee in February. The bill
would pile on more punitive measures against Iran´s energy, shipping,
and mining sectors, while punishing a broader range of Iranian
government officials for their involvement in human rights
Before the latest Senate recess, Reid attempted to pass the bill by
unanimous consent, but Republicans objected because several senators
want to offer amendments to strengthen the bill. Lawmakers from both
chambers and both sides of the aisle want the bill to go through the
regular legislative process so that changes can be made before
passage, but Reid says the bill should be passed as is.
Reid told reporters today that his staff would be meeting today "to
see if something could be worked out," regarding a way forward for
the legislation. (After the meeting, a Reid spokesman told The Cable
that "nothing" was worked out at today´s meeting and there is no
definitive schedule for moving ahead with the bill.)
"I think the best thing to do is to move forward with the bill that
was reported out of committee on a bipartisan basis, unless we can
get agreement from basically everyone," Reid said. "Each day that
goes by without Iran feeling more of our sanctions, that´s too bad
for the world and helpful to Iran. We need to move forward on this as
soon as possible."
The Obama administration hasn´t said anything positive or negative
about the legislation, even though it has been vocal about other Iran
sanctions bills being debated in Congress. Administration officials
met with Iranian negotiators as part of the P5+1 group in Turkey last
weekend and more talks are scheduled for next month in Baghdad.
If the administration supports the new sanctions, it risks upsetting
the new negotiations just as they are beginning. If the
administration doesn´t support the new sanctions, it leaves them open
to GOP allegations of weakness towards Iran in the midst of the
presidential election season.
National Security Council Spokesman Tommy Vietor did not respond to
requests for comment today on whether or not the White House supports
quick passage of the Johnson-Shelby bill. Late last month, a senior
administration official told The Cable, "We´re not just taking a
position on that particular bill at this point."
House Armed Services Committee ranking Democrat Adam Smith (D-WA)
told The Cable Monday that he supports moving forward with the bill
"I think it´s perfectly appropriate to keep up pressure with the
sanctions. I think you´ve got to keep ramping up the pressure," he
said. "If we want to add to the options the president has, I think
that´s a good idea."
Senate Armed Services Committee ranking Republican John McCain (R-AZ)
said today that without the administration´s green light, the bill
probably would not move quickly through Congress.
"Unless the administration advocates for that, I think it´s less
likely," he said.
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