- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sens. Evan Bayh and Tom Coburn on Sunday called for increased sanctions against foreign companies that do business with Iran, saying that such action is crucial to stunt the Middle East country’s push for nuclear weapons.

“There are things we can do … to substantially increase the cost to Iran,” Mr. Bayh, Indiana Democrat, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We’ve got to crack down now, because if we allow things to just continue the way they’re going, we’ll wake up one morning and they will have a nuclear weapons capability.”

Mr. Bayh said he and Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, are cosponsoring legislation “to really crack down on companies doing business with Iran.”

While the United States already has imposed sanctions against Iranian financial institutions, the country’s biggest vulnerability is its reliance on imported oil, the senators said.

“There has to be consequences, and there are ways to make it very painful for Iran,” said Mr. Coburn, Oklahoma Republican. Iran, he said, produces “about 30 percent of their consumable gasoline, and yet some of our allies continues to supply them with refined distillates.”

Mr. Coburn also said the United States should strengthen sanctions against North Korea, which this month conducted a ballistic missile test over the Pacific Ocean.

“Doing what we’ve done in North Korea has not be highly successful since we’ve seen three launches in the last three years of long-range missiles,” he said. “So there has to be significant sanctions on North Korea, and that can be stiffened as well.”

Mr. Bayh said that while he is skeptical that sanctions targeting Iran would work in the long run, “we’ve got to try it and we’ve got to mean business.”

He added that White House pressure on countries that do business with Iran — such as Russia, China and some European nations — would be crucial for sanctions to be successful.

“We’ve got to make [foreign companies] choose; do you want to be on good terms with the United States? Do you want to do business in America or do you want to continue to enable this kind of irresponsible behavior on the part of Iran?” Mr. Bayh said.

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