A resolution calling on the White House to take tougher steps against Iran has collected ’46 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives as of last Friday, including two out of three of this region’s congressmen.
House Congressional Resolution 36′, introduced in May by Reps. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) and Mike Pence (R-Ind.), accuses Iran of continuing its nuclear development while enhancing its ballistic missile capabilities and refusing incentive packages from the United States, Germany, Russia, France, China, and Great Britain to halt proliferation.
Preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability, "through all appropriate economic, political, and diplomatic means, is vital to the national security interests of the United States," according to the resolution’s text.
The resolution goes on to urge the president to impose sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran and any other Iranian financial institution engaged in proliferation or terrorist activities; international banks that conduct transactions with the aforementioned institutions; energy companies that have invested $’0 million or more in the Iranian petroleum or natural gas sector in any year since the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996; and all companies that continue to do business with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
In a phone interview with The Jewish Standard on Wednesday, Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9), a member of the House Appropriations Committee, called a nuclear-armed Iran "unacceptable."
"We need to use every diplomatic strategy and device to pressure the Iranians into giving up their nuclear weapons technology program," he said. "Of course, should all such diplomatic efforts fail, then, in my opinion, all military options are on the table."
President Bush has yet to use the specific sanctions called for in the resolution, Rothman continued. Thus, the resolution is meant to pressure him toward these sanctions, as well as to "create the public climate in America and around the world that would be favorable to these more drastic economic sanctions," he said.
In a statement to the Standard earlier this week, Rep. Scott Garrett (R-5) said, "Iran has made no secret of its desire to destroy the U.S. and other countries it opposes, but Americans forget that Iran is also a threat to its own people . Iran should be held accountable for its religious discrimination and work to enforce the International Covenants on Human Rights, which Iran seeks to violate."
Rothman and Garrett signed on as co-sponsors of the resolution, but Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-8) has not. Pascrell argues that the bill goes too far in threatening sanctions rather than giving diplomacy a chance to work.
"I fully understand the danger that Iran poses in its region and to America’s own national security interests," Pascrell in statement to the Standard on Wednesday. "Though I am unequivocally committed to limiting Iran’s nuclear weapons capabilities, I am concerned that stronger demands for diplomatic advances do not accompany the tough measures listed in the resolution. I have supported sanctions against Iran in the past and will continue doing so. But if this resolution is approved in its current form, Congress will have missed an important opportunity to call for the administration to take on a stronger leadership role in the Middle East."
Pascrell is a member of the House Committee on Ways and Means, which has jurisdiction over international trade issues.
Despite his position on this bill, Pascrell has voted for sanctions against Iran in the past. He voted for the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act of ‘007, which authorized state and local governments to divest from companies investing in Iran’s petroleum and natural gas sector and protects fund managers who divested from such companies from potential lawsuits.
He also co-sponsored the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act of ‘007, which aimed to prevent Iran from securing nuclear arms and the means to produce them, and to ensure this goal is reached in a peaceful manner. It also expanded sanctions against Iran and prevents nuclear cooperation between the United States and any country that provides nuclear assistance to Iran, among other provisions.