Just before the halls of Congress emptied out for August Recess, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 850, the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act, by an overwhelming 400-20, bipartisan vote. That legislation would greatly expand the scope of international financial transactions with Iran subject to U.S. penalty and would greatly shrink the amount of oil importing nations can buy from Iran without U.S. penalty.
While there is agreement across the board that the Iranian regime cannot be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapons capability, the debate about the role of sanctions in diplomacy continues. Some in Congress argue against tougher sanctions, saying newly inaugurated Iranian President Hassan Rouhani should first be given a chance to show that Iranian intransigence at the negotiating table has ended. On the other side, just days after the House bill passed, 76 senators sent a letter to President Obama, saying “we believe our nation must toughen sanctions” and asking him to bring a “renewed sense of urgency to the process.”
Rouhani should be judged by his actions, not his soothing statements, and his history as the chief nuclear negotiator, from 2003 to 2005, supports the skeptics. Describing his previous negotiation tactics, he said in 2004: “While we were talking with the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in parts of the facility in Isfahan. By creating a calm environment, we were able to complete the work in Isfahan.” Today, the regime continues to enrich uranium, install more centrifuges, and make progress on its plutonium-producing Arak reactor. As recently reported by The Institute for Science and International Security, at its current pace of development, Iran should have enough centrifuges installed to enrich a bomb’s worth of uranium to weapons grade – without detection – by the middle of next year.
Even more severe sanctions will support diplomacy, not hinder it, by raising the cost of delay and defiance. As President Obama himself said in his Nobel Peace Prize speech, “Sanctions must exact a real price. Intransigence must be met with increased pressure” and sanctions must be “tough enough to actually change behavior.” Clearly, we’re not there yet.
ADL continues to support sanctions legislation that provides the Administration with a full range of diplomatic, economic, and legal tools to pressure the world’s leading state sponsor of terror into verifiably renouncing its nuclear weapons program.
When Congress returns from its five-week recess, we hope the Senate will follow the House’s lead on this issue and swiftly pass legislation akin to the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act.