Andrea Mitchell challenges Dan Senor on Iran sanctions

By Paul Mutter

In a wide-ranging interview, MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell discussed Mitt Romney’s foreign policy speech with neoconservative Romney-adviser Dan Senor, challenging him over his intimation that the Obama administration lacked the will to increase sanctions on Iran two years ago:

SENOR: They talk about all these tough sanctions that they put in place. The question is, why did they wait until 2011 and 2012 to put those sanctions in place in Iran? When Congress was pushing for tough sanctions on Iran in 2009 and 2010 —

MITCHELL: Dan, on that — on that, you know very well that —

SENOR: — the administration was fighting them every step of the way.

MITCHELL: Sir, you know very well —

SENOR: I’m sorry?

MITCHELL: That those were the unilateral — you know those were the unilateral sanctions on the central bank and the reason given by the [T]reasury officials, right or wrong; was that to do that level of sanctions would create an energy crisis at that time because there wasn`t enough other oil —

SENOR: So why — no, Andrea, come on.

MITCHELL: Let me finish the question.

SENOR: Andrea.

MITCHELL: Because I was reporting this in real time.

SENOR: OK. Fair enough.

MITCHELL: What about the multilateral sanctions that this administration achieved with the help of finally getting Russia and China on board from the United Nations which the Bush administration was never able to achieve because there was no understanding or no agreement from the U.N. that diplomacy was being given some time to work.

SENOR: It’s great that we got multilateral sanctions through the U.N. Security Council. Unfortunately the price we paid for getting those sanctions, for getting China and Russia to buy into those sanctions was that the central bank sanctions would not be included. Everyone agrees across the political divide in the United States who follow this issue closely that the central bank sanctions are the ones that have had the real bite.

The administration resisted efforts in Congress repeatedly to get those sanctions in place. Now you can cite, as they often do, the economic implications. It’s not clear to me why there were economic implications in 2009-2010 but there weren’t in 2011-2012, but they also said that it would undermine their diplomatic strategy. Their diplomatic strategy was reaching out to the ayatollahs in Iran with an outstretched hand, unconditional — unconditionally trying to get unconditional talks.

They were silent when there was a genuine protest movement in Iran that would have given political pressure on the regime. All these moments where those economic pressure or political pressure in 2009 and 2010 the administration did nothing because they believed there was this direct deal that they could get done with the — with the regime. It failed. It did not happen.

So it is important that today we have some sanctions in place that are having an impact. We’re simply saying imagine if those sanctions and the kind of political pressure that could be waged had been put in place earlier on, and to say that things are going fine just because the Iranian economy is in bad shape is just a sad statement of the state of affairs.

The goal is not to weaken the Iranian economy. The goal is to stop Iran’s nuclear program. Weakening its economy and weakening the regime politically are means.


SENOR: They are not results. There`s only one measurement that matters. And whether or not Iran is closer to the nuclear weapons program and today they are.

Presently, Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), whose policies are closely associated with the neoconservative Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, is in fact now seeking a “broader ban [Congressional] for Iran central bank deals and “to blacklist entire energy sector of Iran,” Reuters reports.

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