Washington DC – Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) called for harsher sanctions against Iran this week, saying that regular Iranians would be willing to suffer if the U.S. makes the case that such punishment is intended to help them.
“The economic dislocations and discomfort that will visit on the people of Iran will be better understood, and I think the people will be more inclined to suffer those consequences, knowing that there is a better day ahead for them if the sanctions result in the current regime changing its way of doing business or going out of business,” said Kyl.
Speaking at the Capitol Hill Club as a part of a National Defense University Foundation and the National Defense Industrial Association seminar series, Kyl called for President Obama to communicate with Iran’s opposition that sanctions are not being implemented in an effort to make a deal with Iran’s government regarding the nuclear issue.
“You’ve got a populace who are yearning for support from the West and the U.S. specifically,” he said. “It seems to me that the administration has forgone a wonderful opportunity here to engage in a kind of public diplomacy and various ways of communicating to the Iranian people that one of the purposes here is to assist them as well.”
But in calling for further sanctions, Kyl discarded statements from Green Movement leaders who have condemned the sanctions. Others, including NIAC, have warned that current U.S. sanctions have unintentionally blocked basic Internet communication hardware and software from being available to Iran’s human rights and democracy movement.
Kyl insisted that broad sanctions against Iran could be “clearly conveyed to the people of Iran as intending to support their aspirations for more representation in their government.”
While Kyl argued that Congress was providing the Obama Administration more authority regarding Iran sanctions, he acknowledged, “you’ve got to force the administration to act, which is very, very difficult and requires pressure from people on the outside as well as committed members of both the House and the Senate.”
Kyl, who’s retiring in 2012, said he has been frustrated by the sanctions issue during his time in the Senate, and criticized the Bush Administration and “especially” the Obama Administration for not imposing harsher sanctions.
He accused President Obama of intentionally distracting attention from Iran efforts by focusing on other nonproliferation initiatives. The difficulty of the Iran issue, Kyl said, “caused this administration to say, well let’s focus on something where we can really get a lot of good PR, we will do a bunch of treaties and talk about ridding the world of nuclear weapons and that will divert attention away from this really hard problem that we haven’t figured out how to solve.”
While Obama’s is the first administration to implement energy sanctions against Iran, Kyl criticized those efforts as not going far enough. “The announcements they make about the companies they are going after generally involve companies they’ve previously gone after or at least not the primary targets.”