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Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke statement on Support of H.R. 2194, the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act


Upon assuming office, President Obama’s Administration has pursued a strategy of what I considered to be “common-sense diplomacy,” which engages allied and friendly nations, as well as those nations with whom relations have been cold through the years, particularly Iran.

While I fully respect and support the Iranian people and their liberation struggle, I am gravely concerned with the Iranian government’s refusal to engage with the United Nations Security Council regarding Iran’s nuclear enrichment programs. I felt that it was important to closely monitor the Iranian posture and permitting the Obama Administration to pursue its diplomatic course of action. However, it has become increasingly clear to me that Congress needs to take further steps to aid the Administration in addressing the defiance which has been exhibited by the Iranian Government.

After careful deliberation, on November 30, 2009, I became a co-sponsor of H.R. 2194, the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act. Iran imports 40% of its refined petroleum. H.R. 2194 would empower the President to impose sanctions on any person or corporation who is invested in Iran’s petroleum refining capacity at $20 million or more.

Just a little background, in October of 2009, the United States, along with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) began negotiations with Iran regarding their nuclear program and previously unknown nuclear facilities. It was the highest level of diplomatic talks between the two countries in three decades. These negotiations produced a tentative deal between Iran and the IAEA. In the proposal, Iran would send its fissile material to Russia for preliminary processing. The material would then be shipped to France for further processing and returned, as completed fuel rods, to Iran for civilian energy use. Iran agreed to consider the proposal which had the end of October as the deadline to complete consideration and agree to the IAEA deal.

Despite Iran missing the October deadline for consideration of the proposal, the Obama Administration requested that negotiations be given more time to work before any additional sanctions were implemented. Meanwhile, Iran introduced several recommendations to the agreement, including their desire to keep enriched uranium and buy processed uranium on the open market, which clearly undermined the intent of the draft proposal.

On November 27th 2009, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei released a statement saying that negotiations with Iran were stalled. By an overwhelming majority, the IAEA passed a censure resolution against Iran, and referred the matter to the UN Security Council.

Since then, the Obama administration continued to pursue negotiation efforts with Iran and, Congress delayed consideration of H.R. 2194 to allow the Administration’s plan of direct talks time to bear fruit. While I continue to encourage the Administration to use diplomatic leverage to engage Iran, Iran has signaled to the global community that it is not willing to negotiate. Even more disturbing are the recent reports that the Iranian government plans to build 10 new nuclear reactors and dramatically increase their domestic production of nuclear materials. This raises significant concerns that Iran is not limiting their nuclear ambitions to peaceful energy production.

Iran has made it clear through their actions that they are not interested in negotiating in good faith or fulfilling their obligations to the international community. Indeed, they have escalated the level of threat to the region. This is why I’ve added my voice as a co-sponsor to H.R. 2194.