- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Facing an at-times intense grilling from lawmakers, U.S. United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power Tuesday denied reports that the Obama administration and its allies were ignoring Iranian violations of international sanctions in a bid to keep a nuclear deal with Tehran from derailing.

In a hearing briefly interrupted by a room-clearing security scare, Ms. Power was forced to defend the administration’s record in the wake of a new U.N. watchdog report that detailed apparent acts of Iranian cheating that were not revealed by the U.S. and its negotiating partners.

“Absolutely not,” Ms. Power said. “I myself am often involved in raising sanctions violations that Iran has carried out. We have also, even over the life of this last delicate phase of negotiations, instituted more sanctions designations under the existing bilateral sanctions framework.”

“There’s no pulling of our punches, even during these negotiations or ever,” she added.

But a number of members complained the lack of transparency as the U.S. and Iran try to beat a June 30 deadline to reach an agreement to curb Tehran’s suspect nuclear programs. Many expressed doubt that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Vienna-based U.N. nuclear watchdog, could monitor the agreement to ensure Iran did not cheat.

“From the standpoint of Congress, we do not feel we have received the details on these negotiations,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, California Republican.

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Ms. Power’s testimony comes as the Obama administration faces criticisms on a number of fronts over the Iranian nuclear endgame. Another recent report found there had been an increase in Iran’s nuclear stockpile by about 20 percent over the last 18 months — despite Tehran’s assurances it will cut its stockpiles.

Ms. Power rejected the idea that Congress has not been informed of the deal’s progress, telling the congressional committee that lawmakers have been briefed “at every turn.”

“We have sought to engage Congress throughout this process. I think there have been more briefings on this issue than any other on planet earth,” she added.

The hearing also focused on U.S. relations with the United Nations, which still faces many administrative and bureaucratic inefficiencies as it prepares to mark the 70th anniversary of its founding next week.

Several lawmakers said they were increasingly disillusioned by reports of overstaffed U.N. bureaucracy and ineffective policymaking as governments with questionable human rights records are given seats on the Security Council.

These problems were highlighted by a new survey Tuesday released by the Commission on Global Security, Justice and Governance, which called on the U.N. and other top international institutions to undergo major reforms in order to deal with widespread violence, climate change and global economic collapses.

The panel’s report recommended an overhaul of the Security Council, expanding its membership and placing new restraints on the veto power of the five permanent members — the U.S., Russia, China, France and Britain. But former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who co-chaired the commission, admitted to reporters in The Hague, Netherlands that reforming the world body has always been a challenge.

“I have to say enlarging the Security Council is a little bit like the Rubik’s Cube,” she said.

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