The U.S. House of Representatives is doing its best to torpedo a valid U.S. foreign policy objective, establishing dialogue with Iran, including on the subject of its nuclear program, by passing legislation seeking to damage Iran's economy further just at the point when it is inaugurating a new, more reasonable president, Hassan Rouhani.
Mr. Rouhani is not perfect from America's point of view. On the other hand, he looks a lot better than his predecessor, the clownish, sometimes radical Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Mr. Rouhani passed through the filter of Iran's conservative leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to become a presidential candidate, not a bad thing in terms of prospects for achieving something useful. As the most liberal of the six candidates, Mr. Rouhani won the June 14 elections with about 51 percent of the vote.
Since his election, he has identified himself as ready to talk to the United States and the rest of the world, including about Iran's nuclear program. Iran claims the program is for energy and other peaceful purposes. Some of the rest of the world suspects it of working to develop a nuclear weapons capacity. Talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany are currently suspended.
The United States already has in place a program of damaging economic sanctions against Iran, intended to press it to drop its nuclear effort. The House of Representatives, under the influence of lobbyists for Israel, voted on Wednesday, four days before Mr. Rouhani's inauguration Sunday, to impose even stricter sanctions on Iran. These would be directed against its oil industry and its banking sector, punishing not only Iran but also countries that wish to do business with it. Senate action on the bill awaits its return from its five-week summer vacation Sept. 9.
Even though Iranians resent America's economic sanctions against them, it remains unlikely that they will give up their nuclear program in response, having demonstrated their capacity to suffer in an 8-year war against Iraq in the 1980s that cost an estimated half a million lives. Congress should get out of the way of America's effort to establish dialogue with Iran and its new president.