State Department holds firm on exempting France from Iran sanctions
France’s announcement that it will sell an advanced amphibious assault ship to Russia should not complicate ongoing negotiations over Iran sanctions, according to the State Department’s top spokesman. Lawmakers had threatened that if the French government went through with the sale, which would be the first major arms sale to Russia from a NATO country, ...
France’s announcement that it will sell an advanced amphibious assault ship to Russia should not complicate ongoing negotiations over Iran sanctions, according to the State Department’s top spokesman.
Lawmakers had threatened that if the French government went through with the sale, which would be the first major arms sale to Russia from a NATO country, they would retaliate by resisting administration efforts to exempt France and other countries from sanctions in the Iran legislation making its way through Congress.
It was never clear how serious the threat was, but nonetheless the administration says it will insist on the exemptions, despite the French decision.
"I wouldn’t blend the two together," said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, who noted that negotiations between the administration and lawmakers over Chris Dodd’s Iran sanctions legislation are ongoing.
"One of the issues we will be talking to Congress about is to make sure the president has sufficient flexibility to be able to work with other countries effectively for our shared goal of finding ways to put appropriate pressure on Iran to change course," Crowley added.
The Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent late last month but the administration will argue for its changes when the bill meets the House version in conference. That conference is not expected until after the administration pursues a new U.N. resolution on Iran.
As for the weapons deal with Russia, "obviously is it something we will consult with the French on and other countries in the region," said Crowley, referring to statements by Defense Secretary Robert Gates yesterday, who was in Paris. Gates signaled American displeasure with the decision but declined to specify what the U.S. might do about it, if anything.
France’s announcement that it will sell the Mistral-class amphibious assault ship to Russia comes at a delicate time for U.S. relations with and Russia, not to mention Georgia, which sees the ship as a potential threat.
Almost every article about the Mistral quotes Russian Adm. Vladimir Vysotskiy, who said in September that the ship "would have allowed [Russia’s] Black Sea Fleet to accomplish its mission in 40 minutes" during the 2008 Georgia war, "not 26 hours which is how long it took us."
Russian leaders have distanced themselves from Vysotskiy’s statement, but Russian President Vladimir Putin has made clear he will not foreswear using the Mistral wherever his government pleases.
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin
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