Panel on Sanctions for Iran

Panel on Sanctions for Iran

By Special Report With Bret Baier - April 29, 2010


ILENA ROS-LEHTINEN, R-FL., HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: So in exchange for their support for unanimous vote in the U.N. Security Council, we are willing to water down our bill that will have strong sanctions to carve out and say, oh, Russia, you can continue to do business with Iran. China, continue to provide that economic lifeline to Iran. It's incredible.

MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Obviously, we can't be granted exemptions in general, because the whole point of the sanctions is to clamp down on trade and investment.


BAIER: As Congress is working on legislation to target Iran selling gasoline or refining equipment, the Obama administration is signaling they want exemption for firms based in "cooperating countries." Lawmakers are saying Russia and China are included there.

Here is what the White House is saying in response, quote, "We strongly reject the idea that it's somehow being weakens," sanctions, that, "Rather, we're working to make sure the president has maximum flexibility as we increase the pressure on Iran across many fronts." We're still talking about the United Nations sanctions effort.

We're back with the panel. Nina, what about this?

EASTON: The thing to understand is that there are two tracks of sanctions going. I don't think people understand that. One is legislation in Congress to limit gasoline imports. The second is the U.N., where you do need the Chinese and Russian support.

The effort on the Hill is a feel-good exercise for politicians, but it's a unilateral exercise, and it won't have a huge amount of impact. And in fact there's an argument can be made limiting the gasoline imports and you are enriching the Revolutionary Guard because they'll be smuggling gasoline in at premium prices. So there is a question about the road they're going down.

The Obama administration needs to get Russia and China on board. You need the world condemning Iran. You don't just need - as the Iranians would call it, the regime would call it the Zionists and the evil Americans. You need the world condemning these guys.

Sanctions, they're not going to cause a turn-around in this regime. They can potentially weaken it, especially if they're aimed at the sources of revenue to the Revolutionary Guard, which is the direction they're heading.

BAIER: This administration, Mort, had tough time with sanctions to begin with and if they are working on exemption before the U.N. Security Council -

KONDRACKE: I just totally disagree with what Nina said on this. Don't forget, Obama said that he was going to give Iran until the end of last year to knuckle under and quit its uranium enrichment program or there would be consequences. It is now five months later. They are still enriching uranium and there are no consequences.

They're trying to buy support of Chinese and Russians for what will be weak sanctions coming out of the United States which will have no impact on the Iranian nuclear capacity.

Meanwhile, Congress is saying cut off their gasoline on the theory that if gasoline prices go way up, and there has to be rationing, that the public in Iran will blame the regime, as indeed it should. Once there was rationing, even the suggestion of rationing caused riots and burning of gas stations and stuff like that in the past. So -

EASTON: How will unilateral sanctions -

KONDRACKE: This is not unilateral sanctions. This is, in fact, this is a threat. The threat of these sanctions has already caused suppliers and insurance companies in Switzerland and even Russia to cut off gasoline to Iran. The price is going up.

And companies like Total, the big French oil company, say they will not cut off gasoline to Iran unless they're compelled to do so by this law.

BAIER: It would have to be a coalition of the willing in addition to the U.S.

KRISTOL: What the U.S. is threatening, the only thing that could possibly work, none of these sanctions will probably work and military force would be the only option.

But the sanctions that could work is the U.S. denying access to U.S. markets to companies that deal with Iran such as the French company Total. If France is faced with a choice such as the U.S. or Iran they might cut off supplying oil to Iran. And a lot of businesses have begun pulling back from Iran under the threat of unilateral U.S. sanctions.

So the Obama administration wants to weaken congressional sanctions which could have an effect. They are really in the U.N. sanctions which are incredibly weak. They are really putting emphasis - they don't like Congress in the way. They want to work with the U.N.

This is the U.N. this week that added Iran to U.S. committee of status of women, Iran, a very fine country to lead the world for gender equality and honorable and respectful treatment of women. And this is the U.N. to which Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, is coming next week to participate in conference on nuclear proliferation.

You can't make up what happens at the United Nations. And this is where the Obama administration is focusing the efforts.

KONDRACKE: Even worse than trying to exempt China and Russia is trying to delay the bill. The bill has done good already. Obama should sign it and try to enforce it.


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