While current sanctions heavily affect Iran's economy, it has not stopped Iran or even slowed them down in their race for nuclear weapons and the U.S. Senate, in a very rare show of complete bipartisanship, with a vote of 94-0, passed a harsh set of sanctions against Iran on Friday, November 30, 2012, but the Obama administration opposed them.
Roll call of the Senate vote can be found here.
On Thursday, Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which the Senate passed 94-0. The new legislative language would blacklist Iran's energy, port, shipping, and shipbuilding sectors, while also placing new restrictions on Iran's ability to get insurance for all these industries. The legislation would also vastly expand U.S. support for human rights inside Iran and impose new sanctions on Iranians who divert humanitarian assistance from its intended purpose.
"The window is closing. The time for the waiting game is over," Menendez said on the Senate floor Thursday night. "Yes, our sanctions are having a demonstrable effect on the Iranian economy, but Iran is still working just as hard to develop nuclear weapons."
But the White House told several Senate offices Thursday evening that the administration was opposed to the amendment. National Security Spokesman Tommy Vietor sent The Cable the administration's official position, explaining the White House's view the sanctions aren't needed and aren't helpful at this time.
The previous watered down sanctions has done nothing to slow Iran down as reports from September (Huffpo) and October (WSJ) both show, yet the Obama administration is blocking sanctions that could actually achieve what other rounds of sanctions did not.
One of the White House's chief concerns is that Congress is not providing the administration enough waivers, which would give the United States the option of negating or postponing applications of the sanctions on a case-by-case basis.
An e-mail from the NSC's legislative affairs office to some Senate Democrats late Thursday evening, obtained by The Cable, went into extensive detail about the administration's concerns about the new sanctions legislation, including that it might get in the way of the administration's efforts to implement the last round of Iran sanctions, the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act (TRA), to which it flatly objected at the time.
Flashback- Back in December 2011, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), blasted the Obama administration for working with him in bad faith and he regretted working with the administration on the issue.
The administration's strategy of working behind the scenes to change what's become the Kirk-Menendez Iran sanctions amendment, only to publicly oppose it today, angered several senators, including Robert Menendez himself. The New Jersey Democrat took seven minutes at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing to chastise Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman and Treasury Undersecretary David Cohen at Thursday's Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting for asking him to negotiate on their behalf, and then criticizing the compromise he struck with Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL).
"At your request we engaged in an effort to come to a bipartisan agreement that I believe is fair and balanced. And now you come here and vitiate that agreement.... You should have said we want no amendment," Menendez said. "Everything that you have said in your testimony undermines your opposition to this amendment. The clock is ticking."
Menendez said he regretted working with the administration on the issue, and said that perhaps he should have just agreed to Kirk's original Iran sanctions amendment, which was more severe and provided the administration with less room to maneuver than the compromise amendment that is set to be voted on and passed in the Senate as early as tomorrow.
"This certainly undermines your relationship with me for the future," Menendez told the administration officials. He also urged for more drastic measures, such as a gasoline embargo on Iran. "If the Europeans are considering an embargo, we shouldn't be leading from behind, we should be leading forward."
Video below of Menendez on the Senate floor:
It isn't often you see a Democrat completely rip into the the leader of his own party, Barack Obama, accuse them of working in bad faith, which is what Republican leaders have accused Obama of doing on multiple other issues and occasions.
(Changes have been made to this post)