- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 8, 2006

With politicians and the media focused on the political fallout from the Foley scandal, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that many members of Congress are dedicated public servants trying to strengthen the nation’s ability to fight Islamofascism. One such person is Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, whose tireless efforts to focus attention on the Iranian nuclear threat were rewarded nine days ago when President Bush signed into law his bill, the Iran Freedom and Support Act, which could bar from American financial markets any entity that helps Iran’s nuclear program; transfers advanced conventional weapons and missiles to Iran; or contributes to its support for terrorism.

The legislation sends a strong message to Russia and China in particular, who have played leading roles in aiding Tehran’s nuclear and military programs, and it will give the Bush administration added leverage in its efforts to persuade international banks to cut ties with Tehran until the regime changes its behavior. This policy has already achieved a number of successes. Since April 2005, the administration says it has persuaded four large European banks not to do business with Iran. Within days of the bill’s enactment, the Iranian press reported that talks between the Islamic Republic and Japan on a deal to develop an Iranian oil field had collapsed.

Passage of the legislation, however, was anything but easy. Sen. Richard Lugar, the Indiana Republican who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, was opposed, and in June, the State Department complained that the measure would “create a rift” between the U.S. and the Europeans and would “limit our diplomatic flexibility.” As time wore on, however, and it became increasingly clear that the European Union’s diplomatic efforts with Iran have little potential for success, the administration dropped its opposition and worked out a compromise sanctions bill with Mr. Santorum.

Unfortunately, however, what should have been a bipartisan effort to do the right thing on Iran sanctions was marred by the tawdry “gotcha” politics that make people cynical about Washington. In this case, the irresponsible parties were Sen. Frank Lautenberg, New Jersey Democrat, Rep. Allyson Schwartz, Pennsylvania Democrat, and the National Jewish Democratic Council. As Joel Himelfarb notes in the Op-Ed on our facing page, Mr. Lautenberg and company have launched a disinformation campaign to portray Mr. Santorum as “soft” on Iran. It would be hard to imagine a more intellectually dishonest effort at political spin.

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