Friday, June 23, 2006

Senate Refuses to Support a Free Iran 

Perhaps I am being reactionary in my title, but I was amazed to find that on June 15 the Senate voted down an Amendment (46-53-1) to the Defense Appropriations Bill "[t]o authorize, with an offset, assistance for prodemocracy programs and activities inside and outside Iran, to make clear that the United States supports the ability of the people of Iran to exercise self-determination over their form of government, and to make enhancements to the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act of 1996." (S.Amdt.4234) While I didn't see anything in the text that jumped out at me screaming "must vote against," Sen. Warner raised objections during discussion that the timing may negatively impact ongoing efforts by State. Or maybe it's just the fact that everybody's favorite boogie man Sen. Santorum proposed it. Other notable aisle crossers included Sen. McCain, Sen. Lugar and Sen. Specter (no surprise). But more interesting is when you look at the record for discussion on the Amendment.
We have had lots of debates on the floor of this Senate. We have not had a debate on what I believe is the greatest foreign policy threat to this country at this time; that is, Iran, what our policies should be toward Iran, and what we as a Congress and the Senate should do with respect to supporting the President's policy or modifying the President's policy with respect to Iran.


The Senate has, so far, not taken any action to try to deter that development [of nuclear weapons], to try to change the political dynamic within Iran. Obviously, we have not taken any action to pursue any military force to stop them from doing so.

These are our three options, the way I see it: to get some sort of political dynamic going on within the country to change the regime; to impose sanctions or to get collaboration with other governments to stop them from developing these weapons; or, third, a military option.

I don't think we are prepared at this point to offer a military option, but with this amendment I am offering the other two. I am offering an amendment that will both support and codify Executive Order sanctions already in place against Iran; impose additional sanctions, not on Iran but on other entities that are doing business with Iran; and then try to impose a prohibition on importing into this country nuclear fuel assemblies made outside of this country if they do business with Iran.

Companies have to make a choice whether they want to do business with Iran or whether they want to do business with the United States. That is the sanctions part of it. So we need to enact these provisions because a lot of what is in place right now is done through Executive Orders.

Or maybe the idea of sanctions with real teeth designed to really do something is just a scary idea for some Senators?

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