The White House was reportedly opposed to a new round of sanctions against Iran that the Senate approved in its latest efforts to mount economic pressure on the Islamic Republic.
On Thursday night, US senators voted 94-0 to a new round of sanctions against Iran’s energy, port, shipping and shipbuilding sectors in an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) and its chief Ezzatollah Zarghami are also the target of the latest bans.
Under the new rules, the United States would sanction anyone selling or supplying certain commodities to Iran -- including graphite, aluminum, steel, and some industrial software -- that are relevant to the country’s shipbuilding and nuclear sectors.
The sanctions were again imposed based on the unsubstantiated claim that Iran is progressing towards the production of a nuclear bomb, an allegation Tehran has strongly rejected.
“The window is closing. The time for the waiting game is over. Yes, our sanctions are having a demonstrable effect on the Iranian economy, but Iran is still working just as hard to develop nuclear weapons,” said Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, one of the authors of the package.
A report published by Foreign Policy on Friday, however, reveals that the White House was totally against the new measure and conveyed its message to senators through its National Security Council Spokesman Tommy Vietor hours before the amendment was passed.
Vietor sent The Cable the administration’s official position, explaining the White House’s view the sanctions aren’t needed and aren’t helpful at this time.
“As we focus with our partners on effectively implementing these efforts, we believe additional authorities now threaten to undercut these efforts,” Vietor said.
“We also have concerns with some of the formulations as currently drafted in the text and want to work through them with our congressional partners to make the law more effective and consistent with the current sanctions law to ensure we don’t undercut our success to date,” he added.
An e-mail sent from the White House to several Senate Democrats on Thursday evening mentions in detail the overriding concerns of the administration about the new sanctions, the report said.
One of the concerns, according to the e-mail, is that the approved measure would tie the hands of the administration in possible talks with Iran in which Washington may consider the option of delaying the application of embargoes or negating them.
The e-mail also argues that the sanctions should only target those persons who are involved in Iran’s missile and nuclear programs, an issue the Senate has overlooked in its latest move.
Under the new rules, the White House would be required to report to the Congress about thousands of ships and boats which dock at Iranian ports as well as dozens of Iranian planes which land in airports across the world every day, a burdensome task for ‘the Intelligence Community and sanctions officers’, regarding time.
Comments by a senior GOP Senate aide further lays bare the discrepancy between the approaches of the White House and lawmakers, in particular the Republicans who are at loggerheads with President Obama over major issues, regarding sanctions on Iran.
The aide, whose name was not given in the report, accuses the administration of trying ‘to block or water down those sanctions at every move’ in a ‘comprehensive and unrelenting campaign’ while ‘the US Congress continues to lead a comprehensive and unrelenting international sanctions program’ against Iran.
“We [lawmakers] beat them 100-0 last year and while they tried to kill this amendment more quietly this time, we beat them again 94-0. Hopefully House and Senate negotiators will stay strong and resist the administration’s strategy to dilute these sanctions in conference’.
FM to Meet Afghan Officials
Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi arrived in the southeastern city of Chabahar, Sistan-Baluchestan province on Sunday to hold talks with local officials as well as a number of officials from neighboring Afghanistan.
Salehi’s meetings with the Afghan officials will be held in Hirmand, another city in the southeastern province.
Salehi is also to visit the southeastern border line.
Germans Condemn Embassy Attack
A number of supporters of Islamic Revolution in Germany gathered in front of Iran’s embassy in Berlin on Saturday afternoon and condemned the attack by number of MKO members and Zionist thugs against the embassy last Wednesday.
In the gathering, which lasted two hours, the supporters shouted slogans in which they challenged dual standards of the West on human rights and claims about confronting terrorism.
Among slogans were: ‘Greetings to Islamic Republic of Iran’, ‘We oppose violence and terrorism,’ ‘Islamic Republic is supporter of oppressed nations’, ‘Democracy for all nations without discrimination’ and ‘We love leader of Iran’.
They also protested against German government and police negligence in protecting Iran’s embassy against the attackers.
Around 30 persons of Iran’s opposition, who were supported by MKO terrorist grouplet and supporters of the Zionists attacked Iran’s embassy building in Berlin on Wednesday afternoon.
The attack against the building took 10 minutes and although the police was informed about the incident, they came to the scene with delay.
International Law Violated
Iranian lawmaker Qassem Jafari also condemned the recent attack by a group of assailants on Iran’s embassy in Berlin as a violation of international law, urging the Iranian Foreign Ministry to pursue the issue.
“Iran’s Foreign Ministry and diplomatic apparatus is expected to act firmly and logically on this issue and Germany,” Jafari said on Sunday, Press TV reported.
The Iranian lawmaker urged the Foreign Ministry to prevent the occurrence of such incidents.
On November 28, a group of assailants entered the yard of Iran’s embassy in Berlin and sprayed paint on the walls. Berlin’s police said about 30 individuals were involved in the incident.
According to Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, a number of the assailants have been arrested and would be put on trial.
Iran’s ambassador to Germany, however, criticized the German police for inaction and negligence during the attack on the embassy.
Alireza Sheikh-Attar said in an interview with Press TV that the Iranian embassy contacted the German police three times on November 28 after receiving calls which warned them of a potential attack.
The police assured them that they have everything under control, Sheikh-Attar said.
“But it (the attack) took place at two o’clock. They (German police) were not present here and they came only after 11 minutes,” he added.
The Iranian lawmaker said the German officials should formally apologize to the Islamic Republic over the attack.
Islamic Jihad Hails Iran Role in Gaza Victory
Secretary General of the Islamic Jihad of Palestine Ramadan Abdullah has hailed Iran’s role in the recent victory of the resistance in the Gaza Strip against the Israeli regime.
Palestinian and Lebanese fighters would not have achieved great victories against Israel if it had not been for the all-out support of the Iranian nation and government, Abdullah said on Saturday.
The Palestinian official made the remarks in a meeting with Iran’s Ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Roknabadi, IRNA reported.
Abdullah praised Iran’s role in Hamas’ victory against Israel and keeping up the morale of the Palestinian resistance fighters.
Nearly 170 Palestinians, including women and children, were killed and about 1,200 others were injured in the Israeli war on Gaza during the eight-day period of November 14-21.
In retaliation, the Palestinian resistance fighters incessantly fired rockets and missiles into Israeli cities, killing at least six Israelis.
Egypt announced on November 21 that the Israeli regime and the Palestinian resistance movement, Hamas, had reached a ceasefire agreement.
Roknabadi, for his turn, said Iran would stand beside the Palestinian resistance and stressed Tehran’s all-out support for the movement.
The Iranian diplomat added that the Islamic Republic would not withhold any effort until the rights of the Palestinian people, particularly the right to return to their homeland, is restored and Palestine becomes free.
Greater Support for Palestinians
Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva called on the international community to step up its support for the Palestinian cause.
Addressing an official UN meeting on International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinians on Saturday, Seyyed Mohammad-Reza Sajjadi voiced the support of Iran and the Non-Aligned Movement, which is currently chaired by Iran, for the people of Palestine.
“It is necessary for us to cooperate in a collective effort to put an end to the systematic and extensive violation of human rights and other inhuman acts contradicting the principles and basics of international law that are committed by the occupying Zionist regime [of Israel] on a daily basis,” he said.
Sajjadi warned that the Israeli atrocities are leading to a mounting deterioration of the Palestinians’ welfare and livelihood.
The remarks came after Israel announced plans to build 3,000 settlement units in occupied West Bank and East Beit-ul-Moqaddas in retaliation for the upgrading of the Palestinian status at the United Nations.
“The international community should strive to force the Zionist regime to abide by its international obligations, halt settlement construction activities, and destroy the apartheid separation wall,” Sajjadi added.
The official condemned the killing of Palestinian civilians during Israel’s eight-day war on the Gaza Strip in November, calling on the international organizations, particularly the Security Council, to take action to halt the Israeli violations of Palestinian rights.
Meanwhile, a senior lawmaker said recognition of Palestine as a non-member observer state at the UN is an opportunity for Palestinians to defend their rights at the most important international body.
“All the territories of Palestine belong to its oppressed people and the membership of Palestine as an independent state at the UN is an opportunity to defend the rights of the Palestinian people,” chairman of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, said.
He noted that the Palestinian people can now pursue many of the crimes committed by the Zionist regime of Israel at the United Nations.
“With the membership of Palestine as an independent state at the United Nations, the [anti-Israel] resistance can pursue the adoption of resolutions against the occupying regime of Beit-ul-Moqaddas and achieve its goals and undeniable rights,” Boroujerdi pointed out.
The lawmaker further hoped that the oppressed people of Palestine would win back all their rights in the near future.
On Thursday, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to upgrade Palestine’s status at the UN from ‘observer entity’ to ‘observer non-member state’, inflicting a major diplomatic defeat on the United States and Israel.
The 193-member assembly voted 138-9 with 41 abstentions at the UN headquarters in New York for a resolution approving the upgrade. Nine countries, including Canada, Israel, and the US, voted against it.
The United States and Israel have spared no efforts over the past two years to stymie Palestinian attempts to upgrade Palestine’s status at the UN, arguing that it is only through negotiations with Israel that Palestinian statehood ambitions can be realized.
The US blocked Palestine’s full membership bid at the UN Security Council last year, using its veto power.
The upgrade allows Palestinians to participate in debates at the UN General Assembly and improve their chances of joining UN agencies and the International Criminal Court where they can file complaints against Israel.
Police Seize 3 Tons of Opium
Police has seized a large cargo of opium in the border areas of the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan province, a police official said on Saturday.
Speaking to reporters, the province Police Chief General Hamid Fahimi-Raad said more than 3,340kg of opium was seized in the Zabol border region, Fars News Agency reported.
The commander said that police forces in Zabol embarked on intensive security measures along borders after they received tips about the transfer of a large consignment of narcotics to Iran.
Eastern Iran borders Afghanistan, which is the world’s number one opium and drug producer. Iran’s geographical position has made the country a favorite transit corridor for drug traffickers who intend to smuggle their cargoes from Afghanistan to drug dealers in Europe.
Meantime, Iran leads international efforts in fighting drug networks and narcotic traffickers.
According to UN statistics, Iran ranks first in preventing entry of drugs and decreasing demand for narcotics.
The anti-drug squads of the Iranian Law Enforcement Police have intensified their countrywide campaign against drug-trafficking through staging long-term systematic operations since the past few years.
First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi, in a message on Sunday, congratulated the government and people of Laos on the country’s National Day, December 2.