The House of Representatives is no longer planning to vote on the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act of 2009 this week. After publishing an article on Huffington Post about this, my staff at the National Iranian American Council was contacted by the House Financial Services Committee who informed us that the bill was no longer on the suspension calendar for Tuesday. The reason for the change? Concern that it could benefit hardline candidates in the Iranian election, as I had pointed out in my original article.
The bill had been scheduled for a vote on Tuesday, a mere three days before the Iranian presidential election, according to Congressional schedules posted over the weekend.
The bill would authorize state and local laws requiring public investment funds to sell all financial stakes in companies doing business in Iran's energy sector. Supported by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, proponents of the bill argue that additional sanctions on Iran increase US leverage over Iran. The bill has been portrayed as a measure to enhance President Obama's diplomatic strategy.
The Obama administration, however, doesn't seem to agree - even though Obama sponsored a similar bill when he served in the Senate. Secretary of State Clinton told lawmakers earlier in May that "Until we have tested, within the time period set forth by the president, where we think this engagement is going, I am not sure that adding new unilateral sanctions is really that helpful."
This Congressional act would likely be seen as a provocation in Iran - coming in the crucial final days before the elections. And if the Bush administration's policies taught us anything, it's that confrontational measures do not strengthen the moderates in the Middle East. It strengthens the radicals.
The timing couldn't have been better for Ahmadinejad. The momentum in the last week has clearly been with Moussavi, bolstered by his performance in the debate with Ahmadinejad, whose negative attacks against Moussavi and even his wife appear to have backfired.
Congress should listen to Secretary Clinton. More sanctions aren't what's needed now - talks are. After the elections, the administration will be able to get to work, and the real negotiations will begin.
Though this bill remains in play, Congress did the right thing by taking it off the schedule for this week.