Senate votes to squeeze Iran

Senate votes to squeeze Iran

Chicago Tribune: Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., who has been recovering from a stroke, is expected back at the Capitol in January. That’s welcome news.

We’re also happy to report that Kirk hasn’t let his focus slip on one vital national security issue: stopping Iran from building a nuclear weapon. For years, Kirk has led the effort in Congress to impose crippling sanctions on Tehran.

Kirk and Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., recently filed an amendment to tighten significantly the economic squeeze on Tehran. The sanctions would cover many companies linked to Iran’s government, even if they are not involved in nuclear work. Iran’s energy, port, shipping and shipbuilding industries would be blacklisted.

Such an embargo would tell the world: If you want to do business with the United States, you can’t do business with Tehran.

A popular move in Congress? We’d say. The amendment cleared the Senate on a 94-0 vote and is likely to find broad support in the House.

But the Obama administration is balking. The White House apparently believes sanctions included in the amendment could undermine its overtures to Iran for direct talks on its nuclear program. Never mind that Iran has stalled negotiations for the better part of a decade.

Last week, Iran’s foreign minister hinted that direct talks between the U.S. and Iran were possible, but that the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, would make that decision. In other words: We’ll get back to you. Don’t wait by the hotline.

President Barack Obama, like his predecessors, bristles when Congress tries to tell him how to conduct foreign policy. But 94-0 is a loud, bipartisan message to increase the chokehold on Iran’s economy. The president should welcome this.

Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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