The revelation that Iran has been constructing a second uranium enrichment facility has reinforced the determination of the U.S. Congress to move forward with sanctions legislation.
With Iran now facing intensified pressure to provide a complete account of all of its enrichment and any weapons-related activities, revelation of the new enrichment facility reinforced the determination of U.S. lawmakers to move ahead with tougher sanctions.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's assertion in a Friday news conference in New York that the new facility was not in violation of International Atomic Energy Agency guidelines and would be for energy purposes seemed to only increase the degree of anger on Capitol Hill.
Representative Howard Berman, the Democrat heading the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, issued a statement saying the news reinforces his determination to move a sanctions bill next month.
Saying Iran's intention to build nuclear weaponry and its efforts to disguise this could not be clearer now, Berman said there can be no doubt Iran has been lying to the international community for years about its allegedly peaceful nuclear intentions.
The Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, which has overwhelming bipartisan support with more than 300 House members backing it, would expand existing sanctions and effectively prohibit any non-U.S. company involved in selling, or enabling the sale or transport of, refined petroleum products to Iran from doing business in the United States.
Because it lacks refining capacity, Iran is mostly dependent on foreign gasoline imports. Expanded U.S. sanctions would cover petroleum, petroleum by-products, oil or liquefied natural gas, tankers, and products used to construct or maintain pipelines.
Democrat Ike Skelton, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, said fact that Iran concealed the existence of the enrichment site is not consistent with its claims that the facility will be used only for peaceful purposes.
The revelation triggered a wave of condemnation on the House floor, with Republicans joining Democrats in calls to speed passage of new sanctions legislation.
Howard McKeon, ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, questioned why, if the facility was designed for civilian purposes, Iran concealed its existence.
"It is time for the Obama administration to do something concrete, beyond pinning their hopes on upcoming talks [or] relying on Russia to protect our security interests. This starts with stronger sanctions against Iran, right now," he said.
Republicans also asserted that the nuclear revelation supports their position that President Obama acted unwisely in altering plans for a European missile shield to defend against future missile launches by Iran.
Republican Congressman Trent Franks said, "It is disgracefully ironic that today's announcement comes only a week after announcing our abandonment of the European missile defense site which could have protected the homeland of the United States against Iranian long-range missiles."
Saying President Obama has offered Iran every opportunity for constructive diplomatic dialogue on its nuclear program, Senate Democratic Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry said more robust sanctions are the only way to dramatically increase the economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran from the outside and help leverage pressure on the regime from its own population which wants a different relationship with the world.
Senate legislation sponsored by Democrat Evan Bayh that mirrors the gasoline sanctions bill in the House Foreign Affairs Committee currently has the support of 75 lawmakers in that chamber.