Category Archives: Iran

Lieberman Says Iran Seeking to Develop Nuclear Weapons

An influential US Senator “said Wednesday after a closed-door, classified intelligence briefing on Iran that Tehran is working ‘seriously’ to develop nuclear weapons,” the AFP reports.

“I can’t say much in detail, but it’s pretty clear that they’re continuing to work seriously on a nuclear weapons program,” Independent Senator Joe Lieberman, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security committee, told AFP.

The lawmaker, who also sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, spoke after a briefing from a senior US intelligence official on weapons of mass destruction on the latest US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran.

A previous NIE on Iran, partly declassified in December 2007, stated with “high confidence” that Tehran had “halted its nuclear weapons program” in late 2003. The document is the consensus view of all 16 US spy agencies.

In February, a US official told AFP on condition of anonymity that US intelligence agencies believe Iran’s leaders are locked in debate about whether to build nuclear weapons and that sanctions have aggravated those divisions.

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Graham Critical of White House on Iran

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) “charged Sunday that the White House has been ‘very inconsistent and timid when it comes to Iran,’” The Hill reports.

On NBC’s "Meet the Press," Graham welcomed the pro-democracy fervor that has ignited protests in nearby countries after the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.

"I’d like to see regime change in Libya," he said. "I’d like to see regime change in Iran."

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Gillibrand, Kirk Introduce the Iran Transparency and Accountability Act

Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) have introduced the Iran Transparency and Accountability Act today, according to a joint press release.

The legislation would “require companies to disclose any sanctionable investments in Iran in their quarterly and annual reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and require U.S. banks to report sanctionable activities by their foreign correspondent banks.”

How it works:

The Iran Transparency and Accountability Act closes banking and securities law loopholes by extending the SEC’s explicit authority to require the disclosure of business dealings in Iran by reporting companies, and requiring new Treasury regulations calling for banks’ reports. Studies indicate that at least eight companies with listed affiliates on the NYSE or NASDAQ support Iran’s energy sector, in addition to18 U.S. banks that do business with foreign banks that also service Iranian institutions. Iran then uses these banking and securities law loopholes to gain access to U.S. markets, enabling them to circumvent sanctions, fund their nuclear ambitions, and continue supporting terrorist networks.

According to the release, this bill would also:

  • Require the SEC to publicly post the list of reporting companies investing in Iran on its website, and provide that information directly to the President, the General Services Administration, and the appropriate Congressional committees.
  • Require the President to investigate and determine within 180 days of receiving the SEC report any self-disclosures by companies that could lead to sanctions.
  • The bill also requires the Treasury Secretary to promulgate rules within 90 days of passage to implement a CISADA requirement that U.S. financial institutions report on any correspondent accounts with foreign banks that violate Iran sanctions.

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McCain Concerned about Sadr’s Movements in Iraq

At a hearing last week, Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member John McCain (R-AZ) expressed “concern about the movements of radical Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr in and out of Iran and Iraq ahead of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq later this year,” Talking Points Memo reports.

"I’m very concerned about Sadr’s activity — and his followers…I’ll be pretty blunt," McCain said Thursday at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Sadr’s return to Iraq on January 5 after nearly four years of self-imposed exile in Iran sent shockwaves through the the U.S. diplomatic and military communities and sparked fears about his intentions after the U.S. withdraws its military forces. During his two-week visit, he gave a speech at a rally for thousands of his supporters held in Najaf and visited with political and religious leaders.

Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) “echoed McCain’s sentiments.”

"If we don’t sustain this effort we’ve invested a lot of blood and lives and material in…that would be a tragedy," said Reed. "It could become one of those Charlie Wilson moments when we look back and say, ‘Goodness gracious, what were we thinking?"

Reed was referring to former Rep. Charlie Wilson (D-Texas) and his unsuccessful urgings to continue supporting Afghanistan after clandestine U.S. support helped the Afghans defeat the former Soviet Union there. The vacuum that was created after the U.S. departed left an opening for the rise of the Taliban.

The size and scope of the U.S. footprint in Iraq after the withdrawal is up for debate, and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) argued that the Iraqi people should determine it.

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Senators Raise Questions about Possible Iran Sanction Violations by China

Just before “Chinese President Hu Jintao’s arrival to Washington, two leading senators accused China of violating sanctions against Iran and warn[ed] President Barack Obama that Congress will go after Chinese companies if the abuses don’t stop,” The Cable reports.

"We appreciate China’s decision to support U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929, as well as China’s backing of prior U.N. sanctions against Iran. However, we believe that China’s record on sanctions enforcement and nonproliferation is inadequate and disappointing," Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) wrote to President Obama on Jan. 14 in a previously unreported letter.

The senators cited numerous reports that China is supplying crucial materials to aid Iran’s nuclear and missile programs and alleged that Beijing continues to give monetary and material support to Iran’s energy sectors, including the delivery of refined petroleum products, which could provoke penalties under U.S. laws passed by Congress, including the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Accountability and Divestment Act that Obama signed into law in July, 2010.

The senators specifically named the state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and the China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (SINOPEC) as firms that could come under U.S. penalties.

"We urge you to warn President Hu that the U.S. will be forced to sanction these companies if they do not quickly suspend their ties with Iran," the senators wrote.

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