WASHINGTON (JTA) — The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee says he will move forward on Iran sanctions legislation next month "absent some compelling evidence why I should do otherwise."
U.S. Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), speaking Thursday in Washington at the National Jewish Leadership Advocacy Day on Iran, told more than 300 Jewish leaders that he will mark up the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act in October and "begin the process of tightening the screws on Tehran" if Iran "does not reverse course."
The legislation would allow the sanctioning of companies that help Iran import or produce refined petroleum, which is seen as potentially having a large impact on Iran’s economy because the country imports 40 percent of its refined petroleum.
Berman said the clock has "almost run out" on Iran.
"If the Iranians are going to engage in a meaningful and significant way that will spell the end of their nuclear enrichment program, we’ll open a new chapter with them," he said. "But let’s clarify ‘meaningful’ — we’re not going to be conned by an Iranian rope-a-dope, its stalling efforts. We have no intention of spending months analyzing old proposals which are offered merely to delay imposition of sanctions."
The Obama administration has signaled that it will reconsider its efforts to engage Iran on its pursuit of nuclear weapons if no progress has been made by the end of September.
In addition to Berman, Jewish community leaders heard House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) both say they also were ready to proceed with sanctions legislation. Hoyer, speaking before Berman, said he had told his colleague that "once you move it, my intention is to bring it to the floor shortly thereafter."
Also speaking were House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.)