The Corner

White House to Water Down Iran Sanctions?

At the Washington Times, Eli Lake reports that the Obama administration is pressing to dilute the comprehensive Iran sanctions bill currently in a congressional conference committee.

The administration apparently wants exemptions for firms from “cooperating countries” like China and Russia, who would otherwise be punished — or even cut out of the U.S. economy altogether — under the bill for sending gasoline or petroleum refining equipment to Iran.

“We’re pushing for a ‘cooperating-countries’ exemption,” the White House official said. “It is not targeted to any country in particular, but would be based on objective criteria and made in full consultation with the Congress.”

But Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.), a member of the conference committee tasked with ironing out differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill, said the exemption “is aimed at China and Russia specifically.”

“The administration wants to give a pass to countries for merely supporting a watered-down, almost do-nothing U.N. resolution,” she said.

Worse, the standards for designating countries for an exemption appear to be both broad and vague:

The “cooperating countries” language that the White House is pressing would allow the executive branch to designate countries as cooperating with the overall strategy to pressure Iran economically.

According to three congressional staffers familiar with the White House proposal, once a country is on that list, the administration wouldn’t even have to identify companies from that country as selling gasoline or aiding Iran’s refinement industry.

Even if, as current law allows, the administration can waive the penalties on named companies for various reasons, the “cooperating countries” language would deprive the sanctions of their “name-and-shame” power, the staffers said.

Full story here.

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