Democrat Menendez chastises Clinton State Dept
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has praised the Senate for its unanimous vote (100 0) to impose sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran, despite objections from the Obama Administration. The sanctions are intended to deter Iran from continuing their pursuit of a military nuclear weapon capability. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) were the sponsors of the bi-partisan amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.
The Government Relations Department of the ZOA was very involved with both Senate offices and in lining up Senators to agree to the compromise version of the legislation, which evolved from earlier separate proposals from each of the sponsoring Senators. Several countries in Europe have been more proactive than the U.S. in imposing sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran up until now. The opposition from the administration was both dramatic, and surprising, since Democratic members thought the concerns of the administration had been addressed in the negotiations between Senators Menendez and Kirk. At a hearing on December 1, Senator Menendez was visibly agitated as he castigated State Department officials for seven minutes on their lack of support.
Senator Menendez, a Democrat, said Everything that you say in your testimony undermines the credibility of your opposition to this amendment. . . So I find it pretty outrageous that when the clock is ticking, and when you ask us to engage in a more reasoned effort, and we produce such an effort in a bipartisan basis, that in fact you come here and say what you say.
Senators of both parties also pointed out that existing sanctions on Iran are not being fully enforced by the administration. The new sanctions must be reconciled with a similar House version, and passed as part of the Defense Bill. Although it is potentially subject to a Presidential veto, it passed the Senate with more than enough votes to override a veto if the President chooses to raise the stakes.
The proposed sanctions will force financial institutions to choose between dealing with the US banking system and with the Central Bank of Iran. There are humanitarian exceptions for food, medicine and medical devices, and the President has the authority to waive the provisions of the law based on National Security considerations or economic impact on the price of oil.
Senator Kirk, the primary Republican sponsor of the measure, said:
“Unless we take decisive action on sanctioning, I think what Iran is doing actually destabilizes oil markets in a more significant way,” said Kirk, who cited “the takeover of the British embassy” and new reports seen as backing Western charges that Tehran seeks nuclear weapons.
“The attainment of a nuclear weapon by Iran would destabilize world markets far more than any action of the senate,” he said. “Time is not on our side.”
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, Sadly, these sanctions had to be enacted over the objections of the Obama Administration. ZOA has consistently supported all measures to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear military capability. The statements from the Department of State and Treasury casting doubt on the usefulness of these sanctions are nothing more than excuses for inaction. The US Senate has done a positive thing in this case, and the fact that the vote was 100-0 should make all Americans proud.
Daniel Pollak, Co-Director of Government Relations for the ZOA, said, We commend the Senate and especially Senators Kirk and Menendez for their leadership on this issue. ZOA has always thought that sanctions are a necessary step in denying the Iranians a nuclear weapon. Sanctions may not be sufficient, though. Robust enforcement of all sanctions on Iran and the credible prospect of military action if Iran does ultimately not comply with their international obligations will be needed to stop Irans quest for nuclear weapons.