It is time for the United States and the United Nations to call Iran's bluff and impose strict economic sanctions if Iran refuses to meet an August 31 deadline for suspending its nuclear enrichment program. After 11 weeks of delay, Iran formally responded Tuesday to a United Nations incentives package aimed at persuading Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment.  Iranian officials offered what they called a "new formula" to resolve the dispute, but they repeatedly vowed to push ahead with their nuclear program.

I have closely monitored developments in Iran as a member of the International Relations Committee and the ranking member of the Terrorism and Nonproliferation Subcommittee. It is clear that the Iranian government has no intention of suspending enrichment by August 31, as required by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1696.

The Iranian tactic is always to offer a glimmer of hope that some settlement can be achieved, and threaten all kinds of counter-measures if sanctions are imposed.  For the past four years, Iran has played that game.  It is high time the Security Council and other concerned countries call their bluff unless Iran verifiably suspends enrichment efforts.

It is time for the Security Council to ready a package of tough economic sanctions should Iran fail to do anything short of a full suspension by August 31.  It also is time for the Bush administration to start using the tools at its disposal.  It is time for the United States to impose an embargo on all Iranian goods, punish any American companies with subsidiaries operating in Iran, and actually enforce the Iran Libya Sanctions Act by imposing sanctions on foreign firms which invest in Iran's energy sector.

The U.S. should remain ready to negotiate with the Iranian government, and we should be willing to offer improved relations with Iran should Tehran agree to abandon its nuclear weapons program and its support for terrorists.
At this point, however, Iran must be forced to take such discussions seriously.  Right now, it is just a game for them.  We should stop playing.