Why Is the Obama Administration Going Soft on Iran Sanctions?


January 25, 2010

Hilary Clinton’s recent comments on Iran sanctions have disappointed the dozen conservative Christian leaders who signed two letters to Congress last year (on September 24 and December 14) expressing support for the House bill intended to stop the rogue nation’s nuclear program.

The bill, which passed 412 t0 12, would have authorized the White House to ban companies supplying foreign oil to Iran from doing business in the United States. Christian leaders were hopeful that Secretary Clinton would attempt to overcome White House resistance to the sanctions’ legislation, which emerged immediately after the House vote.

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Clinton favors more “targeted sanctions” against elites like the Islamic Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) that would avoid hurting the larger population (as would the large-scale gas shortage envisioned by the House bill).


Ilan Berman, writing in Forbes, reports that Iran is moving quickly to build up its petroleum supplies in anticipation of possible sanctions. Yet Iran still receives 40 percent of its annual petroleum consumption from foreign sources:

By attacking this dependency, the U.S. and its allies have the ability to generate enormous pressure on Iran’s government. Even a partial gasoline embargo would force Iran’s ayatollahs to deplete hard currency reserves in the quest for new sources of refined petroleum, and bring commerce within the Islamic Republic to a virtual standstill.

Berman addresses the idea of more targeted sanctions against the IRGC as suggested by Secretary Clinton. The problem with this approach, according to Berman, is that the IRGC is now “arguably the major economic force within the Islamic Republic.” In other words, the IRGC is so deeply embedded in the Iranian economy, its leadership and projects cannot be targeted without affecting the general population.

The undisputable facts that led to the overwhelming, bipartisan support of Iran sanctions in the House are the same described by Christian leaders like Chuck Colson, Richard Land, Tom Minnery, Gary Bauer, Ralph Reed, and Bill Donohue in their second letter to Congress:

The stakes are exceedingly high. A nuclear-armed Iran is almost certain to initiate an arms race with other Middle Eastern and Arab nations who have reason to fear the religious, political and military ambitions of Iran’s extremist leaders.

As the world’s leading state sponsor of international terror, we must assume Iran will sell or give nuclear weapons to extremist groups that are declared and demonstrated enemies to America and her allies.

As chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) will be the key figure in determining whether the Senate will consider the House bill. Kerry was urged by the White House to postpone consideration of the bill after its passage, but he announced in late December that he might undertake a diplomatic mission to Iran. As the Wall Street Journal opined,

If the mullahs had any sense, they’d send him a government plane. . . . Mr. Kerry would arrive from Washington to show the Iranian people that at least someone still favors the regime. He would be the most senior American to visit Tehran in 30 years and his trip would convey legitimacy that the dictatorship is especially eager to have at the current moment.

But the mullahs decided they didn’t need Kerry’s act of homage, and Iran’s own parliamentary Foreign Relations Committee turned down his request.

Meanwhile, Iran continues to thumb its nose at the International Atomic Energy Agency in the same way it did Senator Kerry. Iran has rejected IAEA’s proposal that it ship all its uranium (up to 2,500 pounds) to Russia where it can be enriched, then to France where it can be turned into fuel rods, then back to Iran where it cannot be turned into nuclear weapons.

Representatives from the America, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany who met last week in New York City failed to come to any agreement regarding sanctions. Since Russia and China remain opposed to sanctions, any initiative by Western nations comes with diplomatic and economic risk.

President Obama set a deadline of December 31 for negotiations with Iran. That date has long passed with nothing but administration fears that sanctions would cause economic hardship for too many Iranians. If the Congress and White House do not act quickly and decisively, the human cost could far exceed that of any temporary sanctions on petroleum flowing into Iran.


  • Deal W. Hudson

    Deal W. Hudson is ​publisher and editor of The Christian Review and the host of “Church and Culture,” a weekly two-hour radio show on the Ave Maria Radio Network.​ He is the former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine.

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