Republicans in Congress want to defund the United Nations. And at the same time, they also want to get tough with Iran. A senior State Department official advised them today that the former would undermine the latter. “Quite frankly, we should not unfund the U.N.,” said Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman when pressed for concrete steps Congress should take to pressure Iran. Sherman, responding to a question from Rep. Connie Mack (R-FL) while testifying at the House Foreign Affairs Committee, defended the work of the IAEA and multilateral sanctions in bringing pressure on Tehran for its alleged nuclear weapons program.
While Democratic and Republican lawmakers on the committee were adamant that tougher measures were required against Iran following the allegations that the Iranian government was linked to a convoluted plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador in a D.C. restaurant, Sherman found herself defending the administration’s efforts to bring tighter multilateral sanctions on Iran.
The committee was quick to call for harsher measures against Iran and repeatedly criticized the Obama administration’s efforts to utilize multilateral bodies, such as the U.N., to bring pressure on Tehran.
“The little fellow from the desert — Ahmadinejad — has to be replaced by his own people,” said Rep. Ted Poe, (R-TX), and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) warned that efforts to get countries like Russia and China to support new sanctions in the U.N. Security Council is “foolhardy and dangerous.”
Sherman’s defense of U.S. participation in the U.N. comes one day after the House Foreign Affairs Committee, under the leadership of Ros-Lehtinen defunded the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), a program which delivers aid to children around the world. Here’s the exchange between Mack and Sherman:
MACK: We don’t hear any concrete steps that you’re asking the Congress to do. What tools do you need to really have an impact with Iran?
SHERMAN: [...] Quite frankly, we should not unfund the U.N. because we need the oversight bodies to know where facilities are, to monitor what’s going on, to be able to act when we need to act.
MACK: So you would rather us be part of an organization that works against our own interests at times?
SHERMAN: I understand that it doesn’t do everything we want them to do but the IAEA has been a valuable tool in our ability to stop nuclear proliferation.