Fact check: Ryan, Biden disagree on Iran sanctions

Republican vice presidential nominee Paul D. Ryan attacked the Obama administration for doing too little to stop Iran from moving ahead with its suspect nuclear program, claiming that Iran now has enriched enough uranium to build five nuclear bombs.

That isn’t quite true. The claim is based on a spring report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency, which inspects Iran’s nuclear sites every month. But the report said the material is low enriched uranium, and would have to be refined to a 90% purity to be used in a nuclear weapon, a complex process that Iran has not begun and that the U.N. inspectors would detect.

Ryan also said the Obama administration had resisted congressional efforts to hit Iran with “crippling” sanctions, later taking credit for them only when Congress put them into effect.

He is correct that Congress pushed harder and earlier to impose punishing sanctions on Iran’s economy in an effort to persuade Tehran to curb its nuclear program. The White House, as Vice President Joe Biden pointed out, said at the time that it needed broad international support to make the sanctions hurt, or the process would fail at the start. If the administration moved too quickly or harshly, the White House argued, it would cause oil prices to soar and cause turmoil in the global economy.


Once the European Union joined the effort, the administration has stepped up the pace of financial and other sanctions, including an oil embargo that has caused Iran’s oil revenue to plummet while keeping global prices relatively stable.

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