By Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Just a few days ago, Mansour J. Arbabsiar pleaded guilty to working with Iran's Quds force to carry out an attack on U.S. soil and assassinate a foreign diplomat stationed in Washington. Earlier this month, Hezbollah, a terrorist proxy of the Iranian regime, reportedly launched an Iranian-supplied drone that penetrated Israel's airspace before being shot down. Late last month, the Iranian navy launched four missiles as a show of force and its capacity to shut down access to the Persian Gulf. These are just a few examples of how the Iranian threat has become more dangerous since the Obama administration took office.
Unfortunately, despite its rhetoric to the contrary, the administration has not done what is necessary to effectively address the threat from Tehran. Iran's nuclear program, particularly its ability to produce enriched uranium, has expanded exponentially since President Obama took office in 2009. Yet the president continues to embrace engagement and meaningless negotiations with Tehran while refusing to set clear red lines with respect to Iran's nuclear program. The administration's behavior has sent a clear message to our allies and the Iranian regime: The United States is not willing to do what it takes to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability.
Nonetheless, sanctions spearheaded by Congress -- even with the administration fighting us every step of the way -- have made an impact. Iran's oil revenues are falling and could drop much lower as the embargo on Iranian oil expands and investment in Iran's oil sector dries up. Economic sanctions also are inflicting increasing damage on Iran's long-term oil-production potential. Concurrently, Iran is experiencing a currency crisis that could threaten the stability of the regime. The Iranian regime also reports that consumer prices rose more than 40 percent from spring 2010 to spring 2012. Updated data have not been published in recent months, presumably because the data show further hyperinflation. We must exploit this vulnerability. To do so, the president must make full and immediate use of the tools Congress has provided him. Sanctions on Iran's oil industry and banking system are curtailing the foreign partnerships on which Iran's oil industry has relied. Given these trends, it is not unreasonable to contemplate the end of oil exports from Iran, with resulting damage to government finances, foreign exchange earnings and the larger Iranian economy.
However, incremental, a la carte implementation of sanctions limits the potential impact on the Iranian regime's ability to pursue its dangerous activities. The effectiveness of these foreign-policy tools has been further undermined by the Obama administration's naive view that if we keep "talking" to the Iranians and convince them to return to the negotiating table, Iran will stop its drive for nuclear capability.
The Iranians in the past have agreed repeatedly to discussions over their nuclear program, in some cases even giving the impression that a deal was in place before reneging. Thus, Tehran's tactics have another, more fundamental purpose: Iran benefits from dragging out the negotiations as long as possible in order to provide its nuclear program extra time to keep refining uranium, getting Iran its goal of a bomb. Again, if the Iranians can convince the P5+1 countries that negotiations are leading toward an agreement, it is possible the European Union and the administration will quietly ease sanctions, as part of the "flexibility" Mr. Obama thinks he will have in his second term.
There is a growing disconnect between the president's public rhetoric and the process by which U.S. diplomatic efforts have allowed Tehran to do the stalling that he claims he opposes.
We need an administration that will implement a coherent policy to compel the Iranian regime to abandon its nuclear program and other dangerous activities. America and our ally Israel cannot afford another four years of failed Obama administration policies on Iran, policies that will not produce a deal but only buy Tehran more time to cross the nuclear finish line.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican, is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.