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House OKs tougher sanctions for aid to Iran

WASHINGTON (BP)–The U.S. House of Representatives has approved stronger sanctions on oil-related imports to Iran in a move proponents hope will aid in preventing the extremist Islamic regime from developing nuclear weapons.

The House passed the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act by a 412-12 vote. The bill, H.R. 2194, calls for the imposition of sanctions on anyone who knowingly enables Iran to continue or increase its domestic oil production or who aids in the importation of oil products to the southwest Asian country.

Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land applauded the Dec. 15 action.

“This is a very important step in the right direction in doing all that we can to avert a war,” said Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “If we do not dissuade the Iranians from developing nuclear weapons, I am fearful that the Israelis will use the only tool at their disposal, which is their Air Force. And that will bring about a war, and no one except perhaps [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad wants that.”

Efforts by the international community to persuade Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions have failed so far. There is evidence Iran is able to produce low-enriched uranium and has tested missiles.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the outgoing director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Nov. 26 negotiations with Iran to keep it from developing nuclear weapons are at a “dead end,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

Land joined other Christian leaders in signing on to two letters to Congress urging action on sanctions for companies that aid Iran.

In the most recent letter, Dec. 10, they wrote, “A nuclear-armed Iran is almost certain to initiate an arms race with other Middle Eastern and Arab nations who have reason to fear the religious, political and military ambitions of Iran’s extremist leaders.” Calling Iran the “world’s leading state sponsor of international terror,” the signers said they “must assume” the regime will provide nuclear weapons “to extremist groups that are declared and demonstrated enemies to America and her allies.”

In addition to supporting terrorist organizations in other countries, Iran oppresses its own citizens’ rights. Tehran “is currently arresting and detaining political opponents, actively persecutes its Christian citizens, [and] has shot protestors in cold blood in the streets,” according to the letter from Christian Leaders for a Nuclear-free Iran.

Ahmadinejad has been especially provocative toward Israel, denying the Holocaust and threatening to destroy the Jewish state.

Iran is one of only eight countries to be classified by the U.S. State Department as “countries of particular concern,” a designation reserved for the world’s worst violators of religious liberty.

In addition to Land, other Southern Baptist signers of the most recent letter were former Southern Baptist Convention President James Merritt and former North American Mission Board President Robert E. Reccord.

Additional signers included Gary Bauer, president of American Values; Pat Robertson, president of the Christian Broadcasting Network; Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America; Tom Minnery, senior vice president of Focus on the Family; Mathew Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel; and Jordan Sekulow, director of international operations for the American Center for Law and Justice.

In September, nearly 50 signers, including Land and other Southern Baptist leaders, sent a letter to President Obama and Congress urging a boycott on arms sales to the regime and economic sanctions on firms that conduct oil-related business with Iran.
Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.