Use existing legislation to combat Iran’s growing threat

George Landrith President, Frontiers of Freedom
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Had the United States and its European allies acted earlier as promised to impose tougher sanctions against Iran, the threat of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East may not have grown to the dangerous level it has reached today. And if we had acted earlier, President Obama might not find himself in the unenviable position of having to convince the UN Security Council to take seriously the threat of a nuclear Middle East.

Iranian President Ahmadinejad has continued to defy calls that it cease its development of nuclear weapons capabilities. By continuing to stall for time to develop his weapons, while taunting the West with his denials of the Holocaust and his most recent comments that the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, were a fabrication to justify invasions of Muslim land, the Iranian regime reveals both its recklessness and its dangerous ideology.

The House and Senate have each passed bills imposing sanctions on the exporting of fuel to Iran with overwhelming support from both parties, and the president. Unfortunately, they have yet to pass a common version of the legislation so it can become law. Other ally nations similarly want to stop Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons but are also unable to act swiftly and multilaterally.

Despite the false starts and hesitation to impose tougher sanctions, there’s still time. It’s important that Obama—even in the face of the uphill battle he faces to convince countries such as China, Russia, Turkey and Brazil—that a nuclear-free Middle-East is in their best interest as well.

Fortunately, there have been ever-growing calls for Congress to demand greater Administration enforcement of the existing sanctions law—the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996—which sanctions businesses that make energy-related investments in Iran that exceed $20 million.

As a recent report published in the March 7 edition of The New York Times points out, over $107 billion has been awarded to businesses working with Iran in the last decade, despite the 1996 Act. This includes $15 billion that was used as direct investments in Iran’s energy economy.

The act itself gives the president the power to deny access to any entity working or investing in Iran to governmental services such as federal contracts, export-import bank loans, American bank loans exceeding $10 million/year, American markets, military technology and treasury bonds. At a minimum, President Obama must get serious about enforcing that existing law, and provide ample reason for foreign companies and nations not to look the other way as Iran continues its nuclear goals.

Enforcement of the 1996 Act would give companies doing business with Iran’s energy sector a clear alternative: Work with the United States, one of the wealthiest nations in the world, with 300,000,000 consumers, or with Iran.

George Landrith is president of Frontiers of Freedom. Frontiers of Freedom Institute an educational institute whose mission is to promote public policy based on the principles of individual freedom, peace through strength, limited government, free enterprise, and traditional American values as found in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.