The Cable

Clinton: “We will do more” to help the Syrian opposition

The United States is moving toward more robust help for the Syrian opposition but has not yet decided to recognize the Syrian opposition or provide arms to any Syrian rebel groups, said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but the tide is turning in the rebels' favor.

"It appears as though the opposition is now capable of holding ground and that they are better equipped and more able to bring the fight to the government forces," Clinton said at a conference Thursday sponsored jointly by the Foreign Policy Group and the State Department's Office of Policy Planning. "I don't know if you can say that the entire country is at a tipping point, but it certainly seems that the regime will be harder pressed in the coming months."

Clinton denied a report Thursday by the Associated Press stating that the administration is already planning to recognize the new Syrian opposition council that the State Department was instrumental in helping establish. She also declined to confirm a New York Times report Thursday that the administration is considering providing direct arms to some members of the Syrian opposition.

"We're constantly evaluating, we're constantly taking action, and I'm sure we will do more in the weeks ahead," she said. "No other decisions have been made yet, but we consider them on almost a daily basis."

"We're going to carefully consider what more we can do," Clinton said, promising an announcement of future U.S. moves at the next "Friends of Syria" meeting in Morocco in December.

Clinton did say that the Syrian opposition is moving toward a more unified, cohesive position on what the future of a post-Assad Syrian would look like. She also said that the United States is hoping to that the government and civic structures inside Syria could be preserved if and when the Assad regime falls.

"We're doing what we can to support the opposition and also support those inside Syria within the local councils who are committed to the kind of continuity in Syrian governmental institutions so we don't see a collapse and of disbandment of institutional forces that we know from our Iraq experience can be extremely dangerous," she said.

The Cable

Congress set to consider new Iran sanctions package

The Senate will soon take up a new package of Iran sanctions, which if approved, could force the administration once more to implement new punitive measures on Iran.

On Thursday afternoon, Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act currently on the Senate floor, obtained by The Cable, that would blacklist Iran's energy, port, shipping, and shipbuilding sectors, while also placing new restrictions on Iran's ability to get insurance for all these industries. The legislation would also vastly expand U.S. support for human rights inside Iran and impose new sanctions on Iranians who divert humanitarian assistance from its intended purpose.

"We must prevent the Iranian regime from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability and make it U.S. policy to stand with the Iranian people in the face of oppression," Kirk said in a statement to The Cable. "This bipartisan amendment will greatly increase the economic pressure on the Iranian regime and send a clear message of support to the Iranian people."

Supporters of the new sanctions language, called The Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act, argue that it would bring the U.S. in line with the European Union's recent moves prohibiting the sale or delivery of various metals, coal, and software to Iran while increasing sanctions on blacklisted Iranian government entities as well as satellite providers supporting Iranian state broadcasting and jamming activities. The amendment preserves existing exceptions for the legal import of oil and gives President Barack Obama the ability to waive sanctions in the interest of national security.

"According to the latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran continues to defy the U.N. Security Council by expanding its nuclear enrichment capacity," said Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and head of its Iran Energy Project. "While recent sanctions passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate have had a crippling impact on Iran's economy, we must find new ways to increase the pressure and stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability."

Menendez and Kirk have a long history of successfully pushing Iran sanctions through the Senate above the administration's objections. The existing sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran, which the administration has worked hard to implement this year, were originally proposed by Menendez and Kirk despite strong administration opposition.

Those sanctions passed the Senate by a vote of 100-0.