Romney Camp Uses Netanyahu to Hit Obama on Sanctions

Obama administration announces new sanctions designed to place more pressure on Iran.

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Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

The Romney campaign tried to downplay new sanctions announced Tuesday by the Obama administration that are aimed at convincing Iran to end its nuclear arms program.

The new economic penalties are designed to place more pressure on Tehran as it moves closer to obtaining an atomic weapon, White House Officials said Tuesday. As Israeli leaders and hawkish Republicans call for a more muscular approach toward Iran, the White House has remained staunchly behind its practice of enacting ever-tougher economic sanctions on Iran.

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Lawmakers and experts from both political parties, and even some Israeli officials, say the sanctions are working. Experts talk of hyperinflation and other economic problems inside Iran as evidence—but pro-Israel hawks in Washington warn sanctions cannot do the job because Iran will field a nuclear weapon before sanctions could deal a crippling blow to the mullahs in Tehran.

As White House officials were briefing reporters about the new sanctions, the Romney campaign issued a statement criticizing Obama's Iran approach.

The Romney email contained passages from media reports, including a quote from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—an emerging Romney supporter.

"We have to be honest and say that all the sanctions and diplomacy so far have not set back the Iranian program by one iota," Netanyahu said earlier this week during Romney's visit to Israel, according to the Associated Press. "And that's why I believe that we need a strong and credible military threat coupled with the sanctions to have a chance to change that situation."

The sanctions announced by the White House are aimed at blocking recent Iranian efforts to wiggle free of existing sanctions on its petrochemical industry. An administration official told reporters on an afternoon conference call that Tehran has been circumventing sanctions already in place.

Additionally, the Obama order allows the U.S. government to slap economic penalties on any individual or entity that knowingly buys Iranian petrochemical products.

In a related move, the Treasury Department announced it will enact existing sanctions by placing penalties on a Chinese bank and an Iraqi bank that have handled financial transactions for Iranian banks that are subject to existing sanctions.

 John T. Bennett covers national security and foreign policy for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact him at jbennett@usnews.com or follow him on Twitter.

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