Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 122

In vetoing the bill, the Clinton administration repeated earlier arguments that sanctions would actually have an effect opposite the one intended. Clinton said in a written statement that “[t]his bill would hinder. .. our overall national interests … making it harder to achieve the goals it is intended to serve.” He also called the measure “inflexible and indiscriminate,” and said it could trigger sanctions “based on an unworkably low standard of evidence.” Administration officials have also argued that Washington’s diplomatic efforts on the issue of missile technology transfers to Iran have not been in vain. They say that the Kremlin has taken a series of steps in recent months that has begun to improve Moscow’s control over military exports, including those to Iran. (See the Monitor, May 6, 19)

More broadly, the administration has argued that the United States has become “sanction-happy.” The bill, it maintains, would add to a proliferation of U.S. sanctions now affecting more than seventy countries. More specifically, the administration believes both that the bill would undermine U.S. efforts to cooperate with Russia in a number of key areas, and that it could adversely affect a recent improvement in relations between the United States and Iran. (Reuter, The Washington Post, June 24)

Not surprisingly, Moscow yesterday applauded the decision to veto. A Russian Foreign Ministry statement said that Russia received news of the veto “with satisfaction”–considering the action to have been taken in the spirit of friendly Russian-American relations. The statement also reiterated Moscow’s claim that Russian authorities are pursuing “a firm state policy aimed at preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and means of their delivery, including illegal deliveries of missile technology to Iran.” (Itar-Tass, June 24)

Alleged transfers of such technology to Iran have been both a major point of friction between Moscow and Washington for well over a year, and repeatedly the subject of negotiations between the two countries. The transfers have been an equally important irritant in relations between Moscow and Tel Aviv. Israeli leaders have conditioned improved bilateral relations and a higher profile for Russia in the Middle East peace process in part on the halting of such transfers. Russia has dismissed reports appearing in the press–American and Israeli–laying out what is claimed to be a broad network of cooperation between various Russian research institutes and Iranian missile developers. Some of those reports have said that Russia’s own intelligence services have served as facilitators of cooperation between Russia and Iran in this area.