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Lieberman on New Iran Sanctions at AEI

3:48 PM, Apr 27, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Joementum delivered a speech at AEI this afternoon previewing new bipartisan legislation for tighter sanctions on Iran specifically targeting the country's dependence on imports of refined petroleum products. The full text of the speech is after the jump, but the key excerpt:

To be clear, I am not opposed to talking to the Iranians. But engagement is a tactic, not a strategy-and what we need is a multi-pronged, explicit strategy that employs all of the elements of our national power and that ties together multiple lines of operation, including direct diplomacy with the Iranians, into a coherent plan of action for the months ahead, that has goals, schedules, rewards, and punishments.

One component of such a plan must be a clear and credible set of benchmarks, milestones by which we can measure Iranian behavior, and an explicit timeline by which the Iranians understand that we must start seeing results. By developing and building consensus around such a metric of Iranian behavior, the Obama administration can make clear that it does not view engagement as a process without end, but rather as a means to a clearly identified set of ends that benefit both countries and their people....

With the goal of giving President Obama the authority to impose precisely such sanctions, a bipartisan coalition of Senators, organized by Senators Evan Bayh, Jon Kyl, and me, including Barbara Mikulski, John Thune, Russ Feingold, Susan Collins, Barbara Boxer, Jim Risch, Chuck Schumer, and several others, will be introducing new sanctions legislation in Congress tomorrow.

Specifically, our bill will amend the 1996 Iran Sanctions Act to allow the President to sanction foreign companies that are involved in the sale of gasoline and other refined petroleum products to Iran, or that provide insurance or shipping for the delivery of these products to Iran, or that assist Iran in maintaining its own refineries. The logic behind our approach is simple. Although blessed with immense oil wealth, Iran-due to the economic mismanagement of its leaders-lacks the capacity to meet its domestic demand for gasoline and other refined petroleum products. As a result, it must rely heavily on imports for as much as 40 percent of its gasoline needs.

During last year's campaign, President Obama repeatedly expressed interest in using Iran's dependence on foreign gasoline as leverage in our nuclear standoff. However, under current law, the President's authority to do so is ambiguous. Our legislation would eliminate this ambiguity.

In thinking about the subject of today's discussion - U.S.-Iranian relations in an era of change - I am reminded of the famous story about former Chinese premier Zhou En Lai, who when asked his opinion of the historical significance of the French revolution, on its 200th anniversary, said: "It's too soon to tell."

This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of another revolution-the Iranian Revolution-whose full impact on history is likewise still too soon to tell. What is clear, however, is that we are now approaching a defining moment in that history and in the relationship between the international community, including especially the United States, and the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran-a defining moment in which both sides must make big decisions, whose consequences will carry far into the future.

What is also clear is that the challenge of Iran has the potential either to bring the rest of us together-both as a country, and as an international community-or to pull us apart. For too long, unfortunately, the dynamic of our debate about Iran has cut in the wrong direction. Far too often, our domestic discussion of Iran has gotten entangled in partisan politics, with destructive accusations of bad faith and hidden agendas. Internationally, the unpopularity of the Bush administration has provided an easy excuse to any country that wanted to ignore the Iranian threat or avoid making tough decisions about it.

It's time to turn the page. It is time for all of us-Democrats and Republicans here at home, Americans and our allies abroad-to begin to work together to rediscover just how much common ground we share when it comes to Iran.

In this regard, Secretary Clinton said last week that the Obama administration will approach its new engagement with Iran with eyes wide open and under no illusions. That's exactly the right way to do it.