The Cable

The Cable goes inside the foreign policy machine, from Foggy Bottom to Turtle Bay, the White House to Embassy Row.

Senators accuse China of violating sanctions against Iran

Just before Chinese President Hu Jintao’s arrival to Washington, two leading senators accused China of violating sanctions against Iran and sent a warning to President Barack Obama that Congress will go after Chinese companies if the abuses don’t stop. "We appreciate China’s decision to support U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929, as well as China’s backing ...

Just before Chinese President Hu Jintao's arrival to Washington, two leading senators accused China of violating sanctions against Iran and sent a warning to President Barack Obama that Congress will go after Chinese companies if the abuses don't stop.

"We appreciate China's decision to support U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929, as well as China's backing of prior U.N. sanctions against Iran. However, we believe that China's record on sanctions enforcement and nonproliferation is inadequate and disappointing," Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) wrote to President Obama on Jan. 14 in a previously unreported letter.

The senators cited numerous reports that China is supplying crucial materials to aid Iran's nuclear and missile programs and alleged that Beijing continues to give monetary and material support to Iran's energy sectors, including the delivery of refined petroleum products, which could provoke penalties under U.S. laws passed by Congress, including the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Accountability and Divestment Act that Obama signed into law in July, 2010.

Just before Chinese President Hu Jintao’s arrival to Washington, two leading senators accused China of violating sanctions against Iran and sent a warning to President Barack Obama that Congress will go after Chinese companies if the abuses don’t stop.

"We appreciate China’s decision to support U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929, as well as China’s backing of prior U.N. sanctions against Iran. However, we believe that China’s record on sanctions enforcement and nonproliferation is inadequate and disappointing," Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) wrote to President Obama on Jan. 14 in a previously unreported letter.

The senators cited numerous reports that China is supplying crucial materials to aid Iran’s nuclear and missile programs and alleged that Beijing continues to give monetary and material support to Iran’s energy sectors, including the delivery of refined petroleum products, which could provoke penalties under U.S. laws passed by Congress, including the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Accountability and Divestment Act that Obama signed into law in July, 2010.

The senators specifically named the state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and the China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (SINOPEC) as firms that could come under U.S. penalties.

"We urge you to warn President Hu that the U.S. will be forced to sanction these companies if they do not quickly suspend their ties with Iran," the senators wrote.

Last October, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a new report that identified 16 companies as having sold petroleum products to Iran between Jan. 1, 2009, and June 30, 2010. Of those 16, the GAO reported that five have shown no signs of curtailing business with Iran. Three of those companies are based in China, one in Singapore, and one in the UAE.

Japan and South Korea are among the countries that have scaled back their dealings in Iran in response to U.S. pressure. But analysts fear that Chinese corporations could move to backfill the space left in Iran by countries that are now cooperating with international and U.S. sanctions measures.

Also today, one of the key authors of the bill, former House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Howard Berman (D-CA), also called on Obama to press China to enforce energy sanctions on Iran.

"A key area of concern for the United States is the threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran, a threat that would also jeopardize China’s long-term security," Berman said in a statement. "As President Obama sits down with President Hu this week, securing greater cooperation from the Chinese government in stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program must be at the top of the agenda."

China is currently Iran’s largest trade partner, its largest oil purchaser and its largest foreign investor. China-Iran trade is currently around $30 billion per year and Iranian officials have predicted it could reach $50 billion over the next five years.

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 josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

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

More from Foreign Policy

A closeup of Russian President Vladimir Putin
A closeup of Russian President Vladimir Putin

What Russia’s Elites Think of Putin Now

The president successfully preserved the status quo for two decades. Suddenly, he’s turned into a destroyer.

A member of the Zimbabwe Republic Police is seen in front of an electoral poster of President Emmerson Mnangagwa
A member of the Zimbabwe Republic Police is seen in front of an electoral poster of President Emmerson Mnangagwa

Cafe Meeting Turns Into Tense Car Chase for U.S. Senate Aides in Zimbabwe

Leading lawmaker calls on Biden to address Zimbabwe’s “dire” authoritarian turn after the incident.

Steam rises from cooling towers at the Niederaussem coal-fired power plant during the coronavirus pandemic near Bergheim, Germany, on Feb. 11, 2021.
Steam rises from cooling towers at the Niederaussem coal-fired power plant during the coronavirus pandemic near Bergheim, Germany, on Feb. 11, 2021.

Putin’s Energy War Is Crushing Europe

The big question is whether it ends up undermining support for Ukraine.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres attends a press conference.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres attends a press conference.

A Crisis of Faith Shakes the United Nations in Its Big Week

From its failure to stop Russia’s war in Ukraine to its inaction on Myanmar and climate change, the institution is under fire from all sides.