Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Who can be tougher on Iran -- Democrats or Republicans?

Do you really have to ask? 

Some of my friends are saying that the current administration is not doing enough to oppose Iran’s quest for nuclear arms. It made me wonder: What is the Republican record on this crucial point?

Last year, just before the election, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) wrote to affirm President Obama’s strong support of Israel. He reminded us that, “President Reagan is rightly remembered as a strong friend of Israel, although he led the world’s condemnation of Israel at the U.N. when Israel knocked out Iraq’s threatening nuclear facility.” But that was then.

Back in 2006, I noticed that the Washington Post had reported that: 
President Bush declared [Friday, Jan. 13, 2006] that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose ‘a grave threat to the security of the world’ as he tried to rally support from other major powers for U.N. Security Council action unless a defiant Tehran abandons any aspirations for nuclear weapons.
I wondered at the time how it was that Iran was in a position to seek nuclear arms. As it turns out, it’s a pretty good tale.

In 1975, President Gerald R. Ford proposed to sell nuclear technology to the Iranians according to a declassified National Security Decision Memorandum, signed by Henry Kissinger. Iran was ruled by a Shah, and he convincingly made the case that oil was too valuable to waste on daily energy needs. The Ford strategy paper said the “introduction of nuclear power will both provide for the growing needs of Iran's economy and free remaining oil reserves for export or conversion to petrochemicals.” 

President Ford signed a directive in 1976 offering Tehran the chance to buy and operate a U.S.-built reprocessing facility for extracting plutonium from nuclear reactor fuel. It was a 6.4 billion-dollar deal that would have benefited principally two companies, Westinghouse and General Electric, and it would have resulted in Tehran having control of large quantities of plutonium and enriched uranium. Thank G-d the deal fell through when the Shaw was deposed.

The deal was for a complete “nuclear fuel cycle” -- reactors powered by and regenerating fissile materials on a self-sustaining basis. That is precisely the ability the current administration is now trying to prevent Iran from acquiring, as it was in 2005, during the G.W. Bush administration.

It’s interesting to note that in 1975, President Ford’s Chief of Staff was a man named Dick Cheney, and his Secretary of Defense was a man named Donald Rumsfield. Paul Wolfowitz was responsible for nonproliferation at the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. This is the crew that was at the White House when George W. Bush, under false pretenses, removed the only regional counter-balance to Iran.

But let’s not get too far ahead of the story. Before he became Vice President, Mr. Cheney was the CEO of Halliburton. During the 1990’s, Halliburton paid out more than $3 million in fines for selling Libya nuclear detonator devices, which violated a U.S. trade embargo imposed on Libya because of that country's ties to terrorism. Also under Cheney leadership, Halliburton sold an Iranian oil development company key components for a nuclear reactor, according to Halliburton sources. More recently, Cheney has been critical of President Obama’s deal which halted Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons.

While Cheney was busy helping a Iranian terrorist regime acquire nuclear capabilities, Bill Clinton was busy being President of the United States.  He imposed some of the toughest sanctions against Iran in 1995, prohibiting U.S. trade in Iran's oil industry in March, and prohibiting any U.S. trade with Iran in May. Trade with the United States, which had been growing following the end of the Iran–Iraq War, ended abruptly. He also signed into law the Iran–Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) imposing severe sanctions on all foreign companies that provide investments over $20 million for the development of petroleum resources in Iran.

The sanctions did have an effect. In 1997 a reformer, Mohammad Khatami, was elected President in Iran. President Clinton responded by easing sanctions somewhat. However, the basic outline of the sanctions regime remained in place, including ILSA.

In any event, George W. Bush was “elected” in 2000. What was going on when he was trying to get the U.N. to impose sanctions in 2006, as reported in the Washington Post, above?

After being elected president in 2005, President Ahmadinejad lifted the suspension of uranium enrichment that had been agreed upon with the France, Germany and the United Kingdom. The International Atomic Energy Agency reported Iran's non-compliance with its safeguards agreement to the UN Security Council. The U.S. government then began pushing for UN sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. What had the Bush government done on its own?

In June 2005, President George W. Bush issued an executive order freezing the assets of individuals connected with Iran's nuclear program. Some might say that was a pretty weak sanction. In fact, some did. In June 2007, the U.S. state of Florida enacted a boycott on companies trading with Iran and Sudan, while New Jersey's state legislature was considering similar action.

The election of 2008 produced Democratic majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives, and, of course, a Democratic President. Congress passed “the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 (CISADA), which President Obama signed into law July 1, 2010. The CISADA greatly enhanced restrictions in Iran.

These sanctions have been so effective that Iran has been forced to suspend its nuclear program for six months while a long term deal is worked out.

So, what can we learn from this history? If you want to cripple Iran to bring them to the negotiating table and get them agree to dismantle their nuclear weapons program, you’re better off going with the Democrats …

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

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