Last week, the Senate appointed members of the conference committee to combine House and Senate versions of Iran gasoline sanctions passed in December and January. While House conferees have yet to be selected, Congress is hot to trot on its effort to iron out the differences between the two bills, particularly in light of recent statements on U.N. sanctions negotiations.
House Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard L. Berman has said that he would like to have a final agreement signed into law by April: “Time is of the essence here. Every day, Iran moves farther along on its nuclear program.”
On Friday, Senator Charles Schumer and (NoH’s favorite) Senator Jon Kyl penned a letter to President Obama asking him to abandon attempts to add exemptions for certain countries and support the Iran sanctions legislation as is. Again, the Senators stressed the time sensitive nature of sanctions, noting that the “window for implementing meaningful, ‘crippling’ sanctions against Iran is getting narrower by the day.”
Meanwhile, General David Petraeus reported yesterday on a slowdown in Iranian nuclear activities in a hearing with the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The Obama administration has repeatedly urged Congress to hold off on sanctions that may curtail its flexibility during multilateral negotiations, worried that the U.S. bill could backfire and potentially slow its own effort to pursue “aggressive sanctions.”
On the international stage, China has still shown no sign that it will support new sanctions against Iran. Following recent talks with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi maintained that sanctions weren’t the solution to disagreements over Iran’s nuclear program. He stressed that more talks were the way forward:
“Sanctions do not provide a fundamental solution to the Iranian nuclear issue. Ultimately, this issue has to be appropriately resolved through peaceful negotiations.”
There is some speculation that China will eventually agree to U.N. sanctions, but will do its best to delay and weaken any agreement to the point of meaninglessness along the way.