Senators want more juice than Belarus

By Ron Kampeas

The State Dept. announced yesterday that it was imposing sanctions on a Belarus company for its massive contract with Iran's energy sector.

At Foreign Policy, Josh Rogin reports that three senators -- among those who want to see more action against Russian and Chinese companies doing business with Iran -- were not impressed, particularly because the company in question was already subject to a prior sanctions notice for human rights violations in Belarus.

Sens Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) wrote to Secretaries Hillary Rodham Clinton (State) and Timothy Geithner (Treasury) demanding more comprehensive action, according to the letter obtained by Rogin:

We do not believe this represents full compliance with the sanctions regime put in place by Congress. We are deeply concerned with what appears to be sanctionable activities by other entities involving energy investments in Iran, financial relationships with Iran, as well as the regime's proliferation activities.

Note that of the three senators, only one caucuses with the Democrats, Lieberman -- and leans more GOP when it comes to Iran.

Note also that "full compliance" is code for the differences between Congress and the White House over Russia and China that have dogged the enhanced Iran sanctions act (which is what they're referring to) up to and beyond its passage and enactment last year.

Prior to passage -- and even afterwards, before enactment -- the White House had sought exemptions for Russia and China, in exchange for having secured their support for separate U.N. Security Council sanctions passed around the same time.

The White House thinking was that the new UNSC sanctions would lay the legal groundwork for other nations to enhance their sanctions against Iran. If a U.N. resolution was in place encouraging financial sanctions, for instance, these nations would be less likely to fear lawsuits for imposing same. The White House saw the quid pro quo -- allowing Russia and China to continue business with Iran -- as worth the resultant sanctions rush. That rush did eventuate, with Europe, Japan, South Korea, Canada and Australia imposing additional sanctions..

The Iran hawks' counter argument was that this was a sweet deal for Russia and China: All those countries pulling out of Iran meant more business for the Russians and the Chinese. That new business also meant that the sanctions effectively had little long-lasting impact on the Iranian regime.

The White House did not get its exemptions. It did get the traditional national security waiver, which it has made clear it would use as a substitute for the outright exemptions on Russia and China.

Belarus clearly was a bone the White House was throwing the tough-on-Iran crowd.

No one's biting, it seems.


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