Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Debate Fact Check: Obama’s Watered Down Sanctions Have Sent The Wrong Message To Iran’s Leaders

Obama: “I’ve made that clear when I came into office. We then organized the strongest coalition and the strongest sanctions against Iran in history, and it is crippling their economy.” (President Barack Obama, 2012 Presidential Debate, Lynn University, Boca Raton, FL, 10/22/12)

Obama’s Sanctions On Iran Are Filled With Loopholes And Waivers For Countries Like China
The Obama Administration Has Now Granted Waivers To “All Twenty Of Iran’s Major Trading Partners,” Including China, For Their Efforts To Reduce Iranian Oil Imports Ahead Of The Sanctions. “Though economic sanctions still haven’t slowed or stopped Iran’s nuclear drive, the Obama Administration has decided to make them even weaker. The Iran sanctions regime is looking like the U.S. tax code-filled with loopholes. It’s so weak, in fact, that all 20 of Iran’s major trading partners are now exempt from them. We’ve arrived at a kind of voodoo version of sanctions. They look real, insofar as Congress forced them into a bill President Obama had to sign in December. The Administration has spoken incantations about their powers. But if you’re a big oil importer in China, India or 18 other major economies, the sanctions are mostly smoke.” (Editorial, “Obama’s Iran Loopholes,” The Wall Street Journal, 7/2/12)
  • China Is Iran’s Top Oil Customer. “The American waiver granted to China, Iran’s top customer of oil, was regarded as especially significant because it averted a potentially serious collision between China and the United States, which are both members of the group of six big powers that are negotiating with Iran in the nuclear dispute. Under the American law, banks of countries that are Iranian oil importers can be denied access to the American banking system.” (Rick Gladstone, “U.S. Exempts Singapore And China On Iran Oil,” The New York Times , 6/28/12)
  • “The Problem Is That China’s Reduction Is An Apparent Fluke,” Driven By A Pricing Dispute With Iran, “Not A Dedicated Effort To Reduce Trade Or Isolate Iran Economically.” “The problem is that China’s reduction is an apparent fluke, not a dedicated effort to reduce trade or isolate Iran economically. Imports fell by about 50% in February and March because a Chinese oil giant delayed the start of a contract over a price dispute. Once that was resolved, imports shot back up-by 34% between April and May, and again by 35% between May and June.” (Editorial, “Obama’s Iran Loopholes,” The Wall Street Journal, 7/2/12)
  • After Settling A Pricing Dispute, China Boosted Its Purchases Of Iranian Imports By 17% In June. “By contrast, Iran has is showing more flexibility when it comes to negotiating prices-a move China has taken advantage of. After a pricing dispute that ended with Beijing getting the upper hand, the country, long Tehran’s largest oil buyer, has reversed a cut in Iranian imports, boosting them by 17% in June. As a result, Iran’s oil exports have stabilized in the past two months at about 1.1 million barrels a day and the rate of decline of its production has slowed, according to analysts.” (Benoît Faucon, “Iran Barters And Bargains To Help Oil Sales,” The Wall Street Journal, 8/7/12)
Iran “Portrayed The Exemptions As A Win For Iran,” Calling Them An “Overt Retreat” By The U.S. “Iranian officials portrayed the exemptions as a win for Iran, despite the fact that the countries were explicitly exempted because they had begun weaning themselves off Iranian oil. Fars News headlined its story on the sanctions, ‘U.S.A. backs down against Iran.’ ‘Such a move is an overt retreat from their earlier stances,’ the head of the parliament foreign policy commission, Aladin Borujerdi, told the Iranian Students News Agency. He said it was ‘due to decisive stances taken by the Islamic Republic’ defending its nuclear program.” (“Iran Claims Victory After U.S. Exempts Countries From Oil Sanctions,” Los Angeles Times, 3/21/12)
Obama Worked Behind The Scenes To “Water Down” Sanctions, Hoping To Avoid Trouble In An Election Year

The Wall Street Journal : “The Current U.S. Approach To Sanctions … Is Destined To Become Increasingly Ineffective Over Time. It Also Doesn’t Help That The Administration Is Waging A Behind-The-Scenes Campaign To Water Down Existing Sanctions.” “All of this means that the current U.S. approach to sanctions, which depends on the ability and willingness of the Administration to go after individual Iranian or foreign companies, is destined to become increasingly ineffective over time. It also doesn’t help that the Administration is waging a behind-the-scenes campaign to water down existing sanctions by granting nearly every available waiver to countries that continue to buy Iranian oil.” (Editorial, “Iran Sanctions Test,” The Wall Street Journal, 7/30/12)
Fearing Higher Oil Prices And “Political Trouble In An Election Year,” The Administration Has Resisted Taking Strong Action Against Iran’s Nuclear Program. “Officials fear that too powerful a blow to the world’s third-largest oil exporter could cause an oil price increase, damaging the global economic recovery, undermining international support for the sanctions campaign and creating political trouble in an election year.” (Paul Richter, “Obama Administration Takes Back Seat On Iran Sanctions,” Los Angeles Times, 2/17/12)
  • The Obama Administration Actively Worked “Behind The Scenes To Water Down Congressional Language That Would Impose Crippling Sanctions On The Central Bank Of Iran (CBI).” “President Barack Obama’s administration is working behind the scenes to water down congressional language that would impose crippling sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran (CBI). The Obama administration sent to Congress this week a list of requested changes to the sanctions language found in the Senate’s version of the defense authorization bill, which was passed last week. Those sanctions, which would punish any bank that does business with the CBI, were part of an amendment authored by Sens. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) that passed the Senate over the administration’s objections by a vote of 100 to 0. … The administration’s laundry list of requested changes to the bill was sent to leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees. The administration wants to delay the implementation of sanctions not related to oil purchases from 60 to 180 days, and wants to water down the severity of sanctions measures if and when they are put into effect.” (Josh Rogin, “Administration Tries To Water Down Iran Sanctions Legislation,” Foreign Policy’s The Cable , 12/6/11)
  • U.S. Senate Voted For Sanctions Despite Obama’s Preference For Engagement. “The U.S. Senate on Thursday voted to make it harder for Iran to gain access to the entire world financial system, aiming to choke off the country’s ability to process oil revenue amid concern that Iran’s ambitions to acquire a nuclear weapon are building. The 100-0 vote came in spite of warnings from the Obama administration that the sanctions would alienate allies and drive up oil prices. The administration so far has been trying to use diplomatic avenues to persuade allies to get away from Iranian oil, which provides half of the government’s revenues . But Congress, frustrated that U.S. President Barack Obama has so far declined to apply sanctions to Iran’s central bank, decided to press him to take steps in that direction. ‘This is the maximum opportunity to have a peaceful diplomacy tool to stop Iran’s march to nuclear weapons,’ Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.), one of the chief sponsors, said.” (Siobhan Hughes, “Senate Votes Unanimously To Sanction Iran Central Bank,” The Wall Street Journal, 12/1/11)
  • After The Treasury Department Failed To Water Down SWIFT Legislation, Obama “Changed Course And Voiced Support For The Measure.” “When the Senate Banking Committee began preparing legislation on SWIFT, a Treasury Department official met with aides to ask that it be watered down. After the committee adopted the original language, the administration then changed course and voiced support for the measure.” (Paul Richter, “Obama Administration Takes Back Seat On Iran Sanctions,” Los Angeles Times, 2/17/12)
Biden National Security Adviser Antony Blinken Says U.S. Policy In Iran Is Based On “Buying Time And Continuing To Move This Problem Into The Future.” “U.S. policy on Iran is aimed at ‘buying time and continuing to move this problem into the future, and if you can do that – strange things can happen in the interim,’ Antony Blinken, National Security Adviser to Vice President Biden and Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, said on Monday. ‘You never know,’ Blinken added.” (Chemi Shalev, “U.S. Policy Aimed At ‘Buying Time’ With Iran, Says Senior Official,” Haaretz, 2/28/12)

The Washington Post: “The Result Is That President Obama Is Not Even Leading From Behind On Iran; He Is Simply Behind.” “The result is that President Obama is not even leading from behind on Iran; he is simply behind. At the forefront of the Western effort to pressure Tehran is French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who issued a statement Monday calling on the European Union, the United States, Japan, Canada and ‘other willing countries’ to ‘immediately freeze the assets of Iran’s central bank’ and suspend purchases of Iranian oil.” (Editorial, “More Half-Measures From Obama Administration On Iran,” The Washington Post , 11/22/11)

The Wall Street Journal : “The Cold Reality Is That After Nearly Four Years Of Failed Diplomacy And Half-Hearted Sanctions That He Opposed Until Congress Forced His Hand, Neither Iran Nor Israel Believe Him.” “The tragic lesson of history is that sometimes barbarians mean what they say. Sometimes regimes do want to eliminate entire nations or races, and they will do so if they have the means and opportunity and face a timorous or disbelieving world. No one knows that more acutely than Israeli leaders, whose state was founded in the wake of such a genocide. The question faced by Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and other Israelis is whether they can afford to allow another regime pledged to Jewish ‘annihilation’ to acquire the means to accomplish it. The answer, in our view, is as obvious as Mr. Ahmadinejad’s stated intentions. In his U.N. speech Tuesday, President Obama took a tougher-than-usual election-season line against Iran, stating that ‘the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.’ But the cold reality is that after nearly four years of failed diplomacy and half-hearted sanctions that he opposed until Congress forced his hand, neither Iran nor Israel believe him.” (Editorial: “Israel Must Be ‘Eliminated’: Netanyahu Has To Take Iran’s Words Seriously. Why Doesn’t Obama?” The Wall Street Journal, 9/25/12)

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