Sanctions against Iran include a blend of measures taken by Congress and the United Nations. The Romney campaign’s familiar charge that Obama “watered down sanctions” refers to a statement the president wrote when he signed a national defense bill that included sanctions against Iran. Obama wrote that he would treat any provisions of the bill that conflict with his constitutional authority as nonbinding.
In addition, a round of sanctions approved by the United Nations in 2010 did not include action against Iran’s central bank, but the Obama administration agreed to the softer measures because China and Russia had threatened to use their veto powers to kill the sanctions altogether.
Portman also suggested that news of prospective talks with Iran is “another example of a national security leak from the White House.”
Republicans have accused the White House of leaking sensitive information about the president’s counterterrorism efforts — including the use of a computer virus to slow Iran’s nuclear program — for political gain.
But unlike revelations of cyber warfare, reports about bilateral discussions with Iran do not necessarily strengthen Obama’s image.
During the 2008 Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton, now Obama’s secretary of state, blasted Obama for saying during a debate that he would sit down with the leaders of rogue nations, including Iran.
“I thought that was irresponsible and frankly naïve,” Clinton said at the time.