First GOP responses to Arizona mine-Iran controversy


In which we languish waiting for a substantive GOP response on whether the U.S. should facilitate a deal for a mining company that has a partnership with an Iranian company.

Let’s start with the brief I wrote yesterday on how Democrats tried to block a bill authorizing a land swap in Arizona with a mining company:

Dems fail in bid to block bill they say rewards Iran-linked mining company

October 26, 2011

WASHINGTON (JTA) — House Democrats failed in their attempt to block a bill that they say allows a stake in the largest U.S. copper mine to an Iranian-affiliated mining company.

The bill, backed by Arizona’s Republican delegation, would swap public lands in Arizona with lands owned by Resolution Copper, allowing for the establishment of the largest copper mine in the United States.

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday mounted a vigorous offense against the bill, saying that Resolution Copper was owned by London-based Rio Tinto, and that that company is partnered with the Iran Foreign Investment Company in mining uranium in Namibia.

"The Iran Foreign Investment Company is wholly owned by the Iranian regime, and last summer the Treasury Department added it to the list of Iranian entities in violation of sanctions law,” Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) said during debate on his motion to return the bill to committee. “We are about to reward a company that partners with the Iranian regime to mine, of all things, the uranium it needs to become a nuclear-armed power.”

Deutch’s motion failed along party lines, 237-187.

Officials at Rio Tinto said that the Iranian company has held a 15 percent stake in the Namibia mine, Rossing, since 1975, before the Islamic takeover in Iran; that Iran is banned access to nuclear technology at the mine and to its uranium; and that its dividends have been put into a trust.

A spokeswoman for Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), who sponsored the original bill, did not return requests for comment.

Just now I got the replay from Gosar’s spokeswoman, Aprylmarie Fogel. Notably, it does not directly address the Iran issue. Here it is, to three questions I asked:

Does Iran’s involvement in Namibia’s Rossing uranium mine raise issues about the deal? No. H.R. 1904 is a jobs and conservation bill that not only benefits the state of Arizona but through the production of copper, a valuable and scarce resource, benefits the nation.  

Is there room to ask Resolution Copper and Rio Tinto (of which it is a subsidiary) to seek Iran’s removal from its 15 percent ownership at Rossing? The Congressman notes that "Trust is a series of promises kept.  Resolution Cooper has proven themselves to be a trusted friend of Arizona.  As a company they have high standards for employee safety, personal development and opportunities for success.  They have provided scholarships to high school students throughout the region, given generously to over a dozen philanthropies around the state and have proven their commitment to good business practices."  

Rio Tinto’s argument is that Iran is barred from using Rossing’s uranium or even from touching its dividends for now. Is that adequate? Our office is committed to job creation and the preservation of lands in the great state of Arizona.  This subject is not related to H.R. 1904 the lives this important bill will touch or the results it will have on the national economy.

I should add that some Democrats are suggesting that the deal might be illegal. So far, I’ve seen one GOP response to this, by Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), who admirably explains every single vote he makes on his Facebook page:

Federal law already prevents companies within the United States from doing business with Iran.

I guess that either means Amash is confident the deal is vetted; or it’s a dare to Democrats to bring it on through the courts.

UPDATE: The Washington Jewish Week’s Adam Kredo elicits this reaction from a House GOP aide:

Democrats using a procedural vote they knew the Majority wouldn’t support is just another tacit admission that their policies have been soundly rejected by pro-Israel and Jewish Americans. It’s a desperate attempt by Democrats to paint themselves as pro-Israel to overcompensate for a President that is toxic in the Jewish community.

None of the GOP responses so far address the propriety of Rio Tinto’s business with Iran.

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