GOP Leaders Bash Obama Over U.N. Sanctions on Iran

Posted June 9, 2010 at 6:28pm

Lawmakers in both parties hailed the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday for passing a resolution imposing new sanctions on Iran as a step toward harsher punitive action over the nation’s nuclear program. But some Republican leaders used the action to bash President Barack Obama for being weak on national security.

Leading House Democrats praised the U.N. panel for passing a resolution that many say imposes the toughest sanctions to date on Iran. The approved sanctions freeze the assets of 15 Revolutionary Guard-related companies linked to proliferation, including shipping lines and air cargo, and prohibit Iran’s investment in uranium mining abroad. They also bolster existing sanctions by barring new banking relationships with Iran.

The resolution sends “a strong and unequivocal message to Iran that the pursuit of nuclear weapons is absolutely unacceptable and that their self-imposed isolation comes at significant cost,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said.

The Maryland Democrat said the action reaffirms his commitment to sending the president a stronger package of sanctions — the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act conference report — during the week of June 21.

Rep. Jane Harman, chairwoman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, called the resolution “tough and fair” but said it highlights the need for Congress to act.

“We must pass the strongest possible Iran sanctions legislation promptly,” the California Democrat said.

Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) said it is “precisely because the U.N. sanctions are not strong enough to convince Iran’s leaders to change course, it is imperative that we in Congress put in place legislation that is as strong as possible.”

Some House Republican leaders echoed the sentiments of Democrats, calling the resolution a step in the right direction but emphasizing that it is too weak to bring about change by itself.

“These sanctions must serve as a floor, not as a ceiling. It’s now time for Congress to swiftly pass sanctions legislation with real teeth, and President Obama must follow suit by imposing these sanctions upon the Iranian regime,” said House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.), a co-chairman of the Republican Israel Caucus.

Other GOP leaders sought to frame the action as proof that Obama’s approach to foreign policy has failed. They focused on the fact that the resolution passed on a divided vote — 12-2, with Turkey and Brazil voting “no” — and said it emboldens terrorists by displaying to Iran that the world is not united in dealing with its illicit conduct. “The action by the Security Council is a devastating repudiation of President Obama’s internationalist approach to foreign policy, further unleashing the very forces his administration promised to tame,” House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) said.

“We are, in fact, in a far worse position than we were 18 months ago when the president started his diplomacy of appeasement and apology,” Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl said. “It is clear the president’s policy has failed.”

The Arizona Republican called on Congress to pass the Iran sanctions conference report and on the president to “actually use it.”

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said what is “most disappointing” is that Obama has waited so long to take action and even delayed Congressional action by requesting lawmakers hold off on sending him an Iran sanctions package until after the U.N. panel vote.

“The president’s 16-month ‘engagement strategy’ on this issue has simply given the Iranians 16 more months to work on acquiring a nuclear capability, and this sanctions resolution does nothing to stop that,” Boehner said.