Following up on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s promise to impose “crippling sanctions” on Iran should it continue to defy the “international community” (that is, the U.S. and the E.U.) with regard to its nuclear program, a bipartisan group of the Senate’s finest have introduced legislation that would empower the president to engage in a new round of economic warfare by sanctioning companies that sell refined oil products to Iran.
As one might expect, the April 28 press conference announcing the bill was filled with unsubstantiated fear mongering, including this from Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN):
If events continue to go as they are currently going, at some point, during the next two to four years, Iran will have a nuclear weapon.
Actually, if “events continue to go as they are currently going,” the IAEA will continue inspecting Iran’s nuclear facilities to ensure its compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which allows Iran to pursue nuclear power so long as they permit international inspectors to verify the non-diversion of nuclear materials to a weapons program. To that end, the most recent IAEA report (pdf) states that its inspectors have “been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran.” If Iran were to have a nuclear weapon in “the next two to four years”, as Bayh asserts, it would have to withdraw from the NPT and kick the IAEA officials inspecting its nuclear facilities out of the country. Even then, it would likely take months if not years for Iran to stockpile the highly enriched uranium necessary to build a bomb — which Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair recently testified they currently do not have and which they have not made the decision to pursue.
Later in the press conference, Bayh claimed Iran could avoid all this nastiness about economic sanctions “if they simply will agree to a civilian nuclear power and to forego with international oversight and that sort of thing [sic].” Iranian officials have always insisted their program is peaceful in nature and IAEA inspectors have so far been able to verify that, so it’s unclear from Bayh’s garbled statement what would qualify as “international oversight” in his view.
Lieberman also noted that despite Obama’s public statements on the need for diplomacy with Iran, his top diplomat for the region — United Against Nuclear Iran co-founder Dennis Ross — was informed of the Senate bill enabling more sanctions, and “I will tell you he didn’t say don’t. . . . we’ve even sent him a copy of it.“
Finally, Senator John Thune (R-SD) joined his Senate colleagues at the press conference — which also included Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) — in the fear mongering fun, saying if Iran possessed nuclear weapons, “we know inevitably [they] would be transferred or given to terrorist nations that would target Israel.”
Spouting off about an endless series of external, “existential” threats, however inconsistent and exaggerated, typically goes unquestioned in Washington. If anything, it insulates the fearmonger from the dreaded charge of displaying “naivete” in foreign affairs. If everything you say is wrong, at worst a few people might be further impoverished or killed in some far off land. And how many of them are registered to vote?