WASHINGTON ““ The top Republican and Democrat House foreign policy members called on the Obama administration to more closely scrutinize nations that do not comply with Iran sanctions.
Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the outgoing chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, convened a hearing Wednesday on imposing tougher sanctions on Iran.
“There seems to be no doubt that Chinese companies are pursuing energy investments and selling Iran refined petroleum,” said Berman, who initiated the expanded sanctions act passed earlier this year. “The Chinese acknowledge it. I’d like to know why we haven’t sanctioned any of the Chinese companies engaged in clearly sanctionable actions. I’m concerned that we will not be able to sustain a robust sanctions regime if we don’t impose sanctions in an even-handed manner.”
President Obama had sought and received latitude in the bill to waive sanctions against countries he deemed cooperative in otherwise isolating Iran until it suspends its suspected nuclear weapons program.
Also addressing the hearing, where top administration sanctions officials were set to testify, was Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who is slated to replace Berman as committee chairwoman in the new Congress.
In addition to China, Ros-Lehtinen said Armenia and Turkey had expanded economic ties with Iran, and that Russia had offered defense assistance to Syria, an Iran ally.
“We must ensure that the tools we have are used to their maximum effectiveness, and look for new means of compelling Iran to cease activities that threaten our security, our interests and our allies,” she said.
Both Ros-Lehtinen and Berman praised countries that had recently added Iran sanctions, including Japan, South Korea and a number of Western nations.
Iran, meanwhile, has agreed to send a representative to talks next week in Geneva with the six major powers that shape the international community’s policies on the Islamic Republic: the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France, and Germany.
JTA Wire Service