House Panel Questions Iran, Syria Sanctions

Obama administration officials today continued their hard-line defense of sanctions against Iran as members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee questioned the effectiveness of the initiative in the wake of the failed plot by Iran to assassinate a Saudi diplomat.

“Anyone who is surprised that the thugs in Tehran and Damascus would take these actions seriously has been living in a dangerous state of denial,” Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, said. “It is long past time to jettison this dangerous fantasy as it is presently warping our entire policy towards the region.”

Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y., said the administration has made progress in isolating Iran and Syria diplomatically and economically, “but those efforts are frankly not enough…The pressure has gone up but this new heightened pressure is nowhere near the point of forcing the Ayatollah to deal their nuclear capabilities away.”

President Obama said Thursday the US will continue “to mobilize the international community to make sure that Iran is further and further isolated and pays a price for this kind of behavior.”  Today, members of the House Foreign Affairs committee reiterated the need for more action.

“President Obama told the nation that he would use all possible means at my disposal to remove Iran from crossing nuclear arms threshold,” Ackerman said. “I would say there are still means that are still unused and we need to use them now.”

“It is increasingly apparent that current levels of sanctions are not enough to get it done in Syria and Iran,” Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., said.

“This is doubletalk,” Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fla., said. “We’ve eaten up five minutes but I’ve heard nothing about what it is that you are suggesting that we need other than more social networking. That is frightening.”

Obama administration officials pointed out that the sanctions package is the toughest in three decades.  David Cohen, under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the Treasury Department, said they are always working to pressure Iran. “If they continue to pursue a path of defiance, we will continue to develop ways to increase pressure,” Cohen said.


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