Secretary of State Hillary Clinton describes the latest round of United Nations Security Council sanctions on Iran as “the most significant sanctions that Iran has ever faced.”
But Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., chairman of the House Republican Conference, is unimpressed with the administration’s actions on Iran.
“The failure to get a unanimous vote at the U.N. Security Council behind what was a weak set of economic sanctions represents a failure of leadership by this administration,” Pence told Newsmax on Wednesday. The vote also represents “a failure by the United Nations to live up to its historic charter of confronting rising threats by dictatorships.”
Far from deterring Iran, Pence said he believes that the failure of the Obama administration to persuade Turkey, Brazil, and Lebanon to vote for the resolution “is likely to embolden Iran in its nuclear ambitions.”
Defense Secretary Robert Gates argued on Tuesday that the new U.N. sanctions will provide the legal framework for willing member nations to impose tougher unilateral measures on Iran.
The Security Council resolution calls on member states to freeze the assets of 40 Iranian companies involved in Iran’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs, in addition to the 35 cited in previous resolutions.
It also calls on member states to cooperate in inspecting cargo ships suspected of containing equipment that could be used for Iran’s ballistic missile or nuclear programs. But none of the measures has a clear enforcement mechanism.
“With the action of the U.N. Security Council today, Iran can continue to enrich uranium and continue to develop weapons and weapon systems,” Pence said.
Pence continues to believe that strong, punitive economic sanctions against Iran can be effective in convincing Iran’s leadership to set aside its nuclear weapons ambitions.
“We are not the world’s entire economy, but we are the world’s most powerful economy,” the third-ranking House Republican told Newsmax. “We should use the strength of the American economy and our ties across the planet to bring real economic pressure on Iran while there is still time.”
Florida Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs committee, joined Pence in criticizing the Obama administration for stalling Congress from passing refined petroleum sanctions against Iran for the past year.
“We waited more than a year for this weak resolution?” she said in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon.
“Like its predecessors, this resolution has no means of effective enforcement. It implicitly discourages nations from taking further action. And it doesn’t even prohibit Russia from selling S-300 missiles to Iran,” she said.
Pence and Ros-Lehtinen sit on the conference committee that will craft new sanctions legislation in the coming weeks. Pence warned that the White House is continuing to exert pressure on committee Democrats to include waivers in the bill that would allow the secretary of state simply to forgo any sanctions against foreign companies that continue to sell refined petroleum products to Iran.
However, he said he was “cautiously optimistic” that Congress would succeed in resisting administration pressure.
The mood in Congress is not sanguine toward Iran or toward the administration’s efforts to soft pedal the Iran sanctions.
Pence noted that 400 members of Congress voted to complete Iran sanctions legislation by May 31, and yet Democrats caved in to administration arguments that they should delay sanctions to get strong action from the U.N.
“The reality of what passed today bears out that we would have been better leading by example and showing the world what true punitive economic sanctions would have looked like,” Pence told Newsmax.
“Our last, best hope is strong, immediately and punitive economic sanctions by the most powerful economy in the world.”
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