Sens. Evan Bayh and Tom Coburn on Sunday called for increased sanctions against foreign companies that trade with Iran, saying such action is crucial to stunt the Middle Eastern country's push for nuclear weapons.
The U.S. government must "really crack down on companies doing business with Iran, to increase the cost of that business, to drive up the price of violating these sanctions on the part of the Iranians," Mr. Bayh, Indiana Democrat, said on "Fox News Sunday."
Mr. Bayh said he and Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, are co-sponsoring legislation to impose sanctions on companies that do business with Iran.
While the United States already has imposed sanctions that target Iranian financial institutions, the country's biggest vulnerability is its reliance on imported oil, the senators said. Therefore, foreign energy companies that sell gasoline and other refined petroleum products to Iran - and even insurance companies that insure oil tankers destined for the Islamic Republic - should be penalized.
"If we allow things to just continue the way they're going, we'll wake up one morning, and they will have a nuclear weapons capability," Mr. Bayh said.
Mr. Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, agreed, saying, "Talk isn't going to do it - there has to be consequences, and there are ways to make it very painful for Iran.
"They produce only about 30 percent of their consumable gasoline, and yet some of our allies continue to supply them with refined distillates," he said.
Mr. Coburn also said the United States should strengthen sanctions against North Korea, which this month conducted a ballistic missile test over the Sea of Japan.
"Doing what we've done in North Korea has not be highly successful since we've seen three launches in the last three years of long-range missiles," he said. "So there has to be significant sanctions on North Korea, and that can be stiffened as well."
Mr. Bayh said while he is skeptical that sanctions targeting Iran would work in the long run, "we've got to try it and we've got to mean business."
He added that White House pressure on countries that do business with Iran - such as Russia, China and some European nations - would be crucial for sanctions to be successful.
"We've got to make [foreign companies] choose. Do you want to be on good terms with the United States? Do you want to do business in America, or do you want to continue to enable this kind of irresponsible behavior on the part of Iran?" Mr. Bayh said.
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