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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Congress wants tougher Iran sanctions

Congress has had it with the Obama administration's lax enforcement (as predicted) of the existing Iran sanctions. Congress says it wants more.
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) will kick off the slew of new Iran sanctions legislation expected to be introduced in May on Wednesday, when he introduces a new bill to promote human rights and democracy in Iran. He is working on a bipartisan and bicameral basis with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Rep. Robert Dold (R-IL), and Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL). The bill, called the Iran Human Rights and Democracy Promotion Act of 2011, would force the administration to appoint a special representative on human rights and democracy in Iran and impose sanctions on companies that sell or service products that enable the Iranian regime to oppress its people, such as communications spying equipment.


But Kirk's bill is only one piece of the larger puzzle of Iran bills circulating on Capitol Hill right now. Two senior Senate aides told The Cable that the plan is to compile several Iran bills together into one massive, new Iran sanctions bill to be unveiled by the end of May.

"By the end of this month, there's probably going to be a comprehensive bill that deals with Iran on a variety of levels, including proliferation, human rights, and energy," one senior GOP Senate aide said.

A primary focus of that bill will be ways to increase pressure on companies based in other countries that are still doing business with Iran's energy sector.

Many in Congress are increasingly unhappy with the Obama administration for failing to enforce penalties on companies from third-party countries that are still doing business with Iran. The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISADA) of 2010 directs the administration to punish these companies. However, only a few have actually been punished -- and they hail from places like Belarus where the administration has little concern for delicate bilateral relations.


There's no official leadership for the Senate's new comprehensive bill yet, but the legislators most active on Iran have been Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and Kirk. The three wrote a letter March 28 to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on this very issue.

Over in the House, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) could unveil her own version of new sanctions legislation as well. Our sources say that the House is more focused on increasing enforcement of existing sanctions and closing loopholes -- as opposed to introducing new punitive measures -- but nothing is finalized.
Another key goal seems to be stopping China from negating the effects of any sanctions. But it's doubtful any of this has a chance of working without cooperation - which has thus far been non-existent - from the Obama administration. You will recall that the last round of sanctions also started out tough and optimistic, and by the time it got through Congress, it had been so watered down to avoid an Obama veto that the bill was toothless. Will that happen again even though an election is on the way? It could.

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