US Senators accuse China of violating sanctions against Iran

Iran Materials 20 January 2011 11:57 (UTC +04:00)

Just before Chinese President Hu Jintao's arrival in Washington, two leading senators accused China of violating sanctions against Iran and warned President Obama that Congress will go after Chinese companies if the abuses don't stop,  The Washington Post reported.

"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 I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) wrote 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. law.

The senators named the state-owned China National Petroleum Corp. and the China Petroleum and Chemical Corp. as firms that could face 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.

Rep. Howard L. Berman (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also called on Obama to press China to enforce energy sanctions against Iran.

"A key area of concern for the United States is the threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran, a threat that would also jeopardize China's long-term security," Berman said in a statement. "As President Obama sits down with President Hu this week, securing greater cooperation from the Chinese government in stopping Iran's nuclear weapons program must be at the top of the agenda."

A vow to stop civilian nuclear deals

The Obama administration is negotiating civilian nuclear-cooperation agreements with a host of countries. But Congress will try to stop some of those deals if House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has anything to say about it.

Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who took over the panel last week, has promised to fight the administration's foreign policy agenda on a range of fronts. On her first day, she pledged to take an ax to the State Department's budget, and last month she single-handedly killed a bill that would have made opposition to forced child marriages an element of U.S. foreign policy. Her next target is the Atomic Energy Act (AEA), the law that governs civilian nuclear agreements - commonly known as "123" agreements for the section of the AEA governing them.

Ros-Lehtinen is angry that the administration entered into a 123 agreement with Russia this month. The administration submitted the agreement to Congress last May. She introduced a resolution to stop it during the previous congressional session, but it never came up for a vote in the Democratic-led House. The deal consequently went through after a 90-day waiting period.

"The U.S.-Russia nuclear cooperation agreement that went into effect this week never got a vote in Congress," Ros-Lehtinen said last week. "The Atomic Energy Act must be reformed so that these far-reaching and potentially dangerous agreements are required to receive an up-or-down vote in Congress before going into effect."

She said her bill would require the administration to certify that a country has met a number of requirements before signing a nuclear deal with the United States, and to verify that the deal would advance U.S. interests.

A fiscal push to leave Afghanistan

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said he wants to build a center-right coalition to advocate for pulling out of Afghanistan to save the hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars being spent there.

As the government grapples with a fiscal crisis, the huge investment in Afghanistan just isn't wise, Norquist recently argued at a private dinner in Washington.

He repeatedly invoked former president Ronald Reagan, whom he said reacted appropriately to past terrorist attacks, such as the 1983 killing of 241 Marines in Beirut, but didn't commit the United States to a protracted occupation of that country.

"Reagan didn't decide that the U.S. should stay in Lebanon for 15 years. We left that country to have their civil war all by themselves," Norquist said.