As Iranians protest in the largest numbers since the disputed 2009 Iranian Presidential election that sparked the Green Movement, many lawmakers are wondering how to stand with Iranians as they bravely make their voices heard. To do so, it is important to recognize that policymakers in Washington will have limited ability to positively impact the ultimate outcome of protests that are Iranian in origin and will ultimately be decided by Iranians. Outside of expressions of moral support, Iranians have not asked for U.S. assistance and many believe that calls for regime change or revolution from the U.S. or other states will hurt the people’s cause and assist in the government’s ability to crack down.
With this in mind, we encourage Congress to take the following practical steps to stand with the Iranian people:
- Take immediate action to rescind the Muslim ban, which bars Iranians from traveling to the United States; in order to take a stand in solidarity with the Iranian people, the U.S. must address the enormous trust deficit that Donald Trump has with Iranians. The Muslim Ban that primarily targets Iranians and, combined with antagonistic rhetoric such as his blaming Iran for an ISIS terror attack in the country, Iranians do not believe that Trump or his administration have their best interests in mind. In order to credibly stand with the Iranian people, it is important that policies like the Muslim Ban are rescinded.
- Condemn violence and human rights abuses perpetrated by Iran’s government and call on the Iranian government to honor its human rights obligations, including the right to free speech and peaceful assembly;
- Encourage the Administration to responsibly implement targeted human rights sanctions against violators in Iran’s government under the authorities Congress granted to the President in the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions and Divestment Act of 2010 and the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012;
- Ensure that communications technology is available to Iranians, including by encouraging applications to continue operating inside Iran and also taking necessary steps to ensure U.S. sanctions do not prevent other helpful tools from being utilized by Iranians; between 2009 and 2016, the U.S. took steps to lift sanctions on important tools that have helped enable Iranians to communicate freely – including applications, smartphones, and services. Further steps can be taken to ensure tech companies make these tools available to Iranians.
- Uphold the Iran nuclear deal and highlight the sanctions relief granted under the agreement that should benefit ordinary Iranians. President Trump and his administration will face key decisions in the weeks ahead on whether or not to extend sanctions waivers under the Iran nuclear deal and on whether to certify the accord under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act. Congress must warn Trump against callously shredding the deal, which would threaten to empower hardline elements in Iran and undermine U.S. security interests.
On December 4th, the Supreme Court allowed for the temporary reinstatement of the third iteration of Trump’s Muslim ban pending court decisions later this week.
Unfortunately, the back-and-forth implementation of the ban means that Iranian Americans and their friends and family members in Iran – as well as other affected communities – will remain in legal limbo. Until Trump’s ban is defeated once and for all, the unacceptable pain and suffering that it causes will continue.
This could all end today if Congress stands up to Trump and blocks the ban from being implemented. In October, NIAC Action joined with fifteen other organizations – including the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, Arab-American Institute, Muslim Advocates and National Immigration Law Center – to deliver over 111,000 petitions calling on Congress to rescind the ban immediately.
The fact that the ban is once again in force – even if only temporarily – underscores the need to keep up the pressure.
Tell Congress to rescind the ban by sponsoring and passing legislation from Senators Chris Murphy, Dianne Feinstein (S. 1979) and Rep. Judy Chu (H.R. 4271) without delay!
Two bills passed out of committee earlier this month by the House Financial Services Committee, H.R. 1638 and H.R. 4324, appear intended to violate U.S. commitments under the Iran nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). NIAC Action urges lawmakers to vote against the bills if they receive a vote on the House floor.
H.R 1638, the “Iranian Leadership Asset Transparency Act,” is nearly identical to legislation in the 114th Congress (H.R. 5461) that received a veto threat from the Obama administration. According to the Statement of Administration policy, H.R. 5461 “would incentivize those involved to make their financial dealings less transparent and create a disincentive for Iran’s banking sector to demonstrate transparency. These onerous reporting requirements also would take critical resources away from the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s important work to identify Iranian entities engaged in sanctionable conduct. Producing this information could also compromise intelligence sources and methods.” Moreover, the statement indicated that the legislation risked being perceived as an effort to undermine implementation of the JCPOA, which obligates the U.S. to abstain from any effort “specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalisation of trade and economic relations with Iran.”
H.R. 5461 passed the House following the veto threat, with most Democrats voting against the measure, though it proceeded no further in the 114th Congress. None of the concerns raised by the Obama administration have been addressed in H.R. 1638. All legislators who are serious about upholding the JCPOA and ensuring Iran continues to abide by its nuclear-related commitments should vote against H.R. 1638 and ensure that it does not pass into law.
H.R. 4324, the “Strengthening Oversight of Iran’s Access to Finance Act,” would place in peril the U.S. commitment to permit the sale of commercial passenger aircraft to Iran by forcing the Secretary of the Treasury to revoke licenses facilitating such lawful sales should findings be made regarding the potential Iranian end-users. Because this bill seeks to render impermissible that which is expressly permitted pursuant to the JCPOA — the nuclear accord between the U.S., other major world powers, and Iran — it would be non-compliant with the nuclear agreement.
Under the JCPOA, the United States is broadly committed to “allow for the sale of commercial passenger aircraft and related parts and services to Iran.” This involves not just licensing the sale of aircraft and related parts and services to Iran, but also those activities necessary to facilitate such sales (including, but not limited to, the financing for such sales). The U.S.’s commitment is conditioned on “licensed items and services [being] used exclusively for commercial passenger aviation.” Pursuant to the agreement, the U.S. is permitted to cease performance of this commitment only in cases in which it determines (1) that licensed aircraft have been re-sold or otherwise transferred to designated parties; or (2) that licensed aircraft have been used for purposes other than for commercial passenger aviation. If neither of those determinations are made in good-faith, then the U.S. has no permissible basis on which to cease performance of its commitment to allow for the sale of commercial passenger aircraft to Iran.
In addition, the JCPOA obligates the United States “to refrain from…re-imposing the sanctions specified in [the JCPOA] that it has ceased applying under the [agreement].” For instance, the U.S. committed to rescind the designations of certain Iranian parties — including Iran Air and other Iranian airlines — and remove their names from the SDN List. The re-designation of these delisted Iranian parties would thus place the U.S. in violation of its obligations under the nuclear agreement.
This bill seeks to impose extra conditions on the licensed sale of aircraft to Iran, including, for instance, the condition that the Iranian end-users do not use non-licensed aircraft for purposes other than commercial passenger aviation. The bill requires the Secretary of the Treasury to provide certification that the Iranian end-users of the licensed aircraft have not “knowingly provided transportation services” to any Iranian person designated under Executive Orders 13224, 13382, or 13572 in the past 12 months — even if the services provided had no relationship to the licensed aircraft or related goods or services.
If the Secretary is unable to make such certification, then the bill requires the Secretary to report whether it intends to suspend or revoke any license facilitating the licensed sale of aircraft to Iran. The obvious conclusion from the bill’s text is that the Secretary will be forced to revoke such license if he or she is unable to make the required certification. Because this certification requirement goes above and beyond that which conditions the U.S.’s commitment to allow for the sale of commercial passenger aircraft to Iran, it risks placing the United States in non-compliance with its obligations under the JCPOA.
Senators Chris Murphy and Dianne Feinstein have introduced legislation to block any taxpayer dollars from being used to enforce Donald Trump’s Muslim bans.
If Congress passes this bill – the Muslim Ban will be blocked for good.
Thankfully, 29 Senators have already signed onto the bill. Unfortunately, Republican leadership has blocked any votes on the ban. In order to change that, we need to get more Senators on board – and encourage those who support the bill to aggressively push for a vote.
Call your Senators now – our system will prep two messages you can pick from based on whether or not your Senators are supporting this bill. If they have signed onto the legislation, thank them with encouragement that the Senator press for a vote. If they have not signed onto the bill, urge them to support it.
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Washington, DC – A critical bill from Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AS) and Bob Corker (R-TN) that would violate the Iran nuclear deal appears to have stalled due to lack of support. Contacts on Capitol Hill have indicated to NIAC Action staff that negotiations on the bill have led nowhere and that few Senate Democrats have been tempted by the Cotton-Corker proposal. This is a key development in the fight to preserve the Iran nuclear deal, as Cotton-Corker appeared to be the most likely legislative vehicle to move following Trump’s October 13th decision to withhold certification of the accord. Yet, a full month later, deal opponents have yet to convince Democrats to back any legislative proposals that would violate the accord.
NIAC Action members have pushed back strongly against the bill, including by calling and writing their Members of Congress and organizing phone banks in key states. These actions have helped to highlight the risks of the U.S. killing the deal, which could put the U.S. and Iran on the fast track to war.
Additionally, a November 9th article in The Jerusalem Post concludes that Corker, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, pulled the bill due to insufficient support following pushback from Senate Democrats and European parties to the accord.
Based on a draft summary of the Cotton-Corker bill that was circulated in October, the proposal sought to automatically re-impose nuclear-related sanctions under various scenarios without regard to whether Iran is upholding its nuclear commitments. Under one such scenario, sanctions would be re-imposed if Iran ever moves under a one year “breakout” timeline, which is not prohibited in the out years of the agreement. At a briefing held by NIAC on October 18, former Obama administration official Robert Malley warned “The legislation that the administration is pushing and that some in Congress are supporting… is a violation of the deal.”
While Cotton’s spokesperson indicated the legislators “are very much still working together on a bill that reflects the same framework laid out last month,” Corker’s spokesperson did not dispute assertions that the legislation had been pulled, according to The Jerusalem Post article.
If the Cotton-Corker bill is dead in the water, there are still several legislative threats to overcome to preserve the nuclear accord. An alternative threat would be a watered-down version of the Cotton-Corker legislation that would still seek to alter the agreement’s terms by moving the goalposts on sanctions relief. This could lead to a fracturing of the agreement by undermining the notion that the U.S. intends to uphold its end of the bargain. Additionally, under the sixty-day window triggered by Trump’s October decertification, Congress has roughly one additional month wherein it could snapback nuclear-related sanctions under expedited procedure. However, there appears to be no Congressional appetite to kill the deal in such a direct manner.
Even if Congress gets through the 60-day window without snapping back sanctions or seeking to amend the terms, there may be additional pressure to pass problematic legislation given Trump’s lingering threat to terminate the deal if Congress abstains from action. In January, the administration faces another 90-day certification requirement under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, and must act once again to waive existing sanctions in order to uphold the JCPOA.
Trump’s decertification: The Trump administration decertified the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) last month despite Iran’s continued verified compliance and the broad consensus that the accord remains in the U.S. national interest. The decision to decertify gives Congress 60 days – until December 12th – to introduce legislation under an expedited, filibuster-proof process that would reimpose the sanctions lifted under the nuclear deal – effectively ending U.S. compliance with the 7-party agreement.
What happens now: Under the expedited process Trump triggered, Republicans in Congress can kill the Iran deal with a simple majority vote – meaning no Democrats would need to be brought along. However, while every Republican in Congress publicly opposed the Iran deal, few of them have been willing to kill the agreement outright now that they have the opportunity. Instead, Trump has called has called for Congress to unilaterally alter the accord by passing legislation that ties sanctions relief to Iran’s missile program and makes “all restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activity permanent under U.S. law.” Such efforts would be a violation of the agreement.
Will Congress pass legislation: Senator Tom Cotton (who authored the infamous letter behind Obama’s back to Ayatollah Khamenei during the nuclear talks) and Bob Corker have been circulating draft legislation to enact Trump’s vision. The legislation is not subject to the expedited process – meaning all Senate Republicans and at least 8 Democrats would need to support such a bill. So far, Cotton and Corker have failed to convince any Democrats to get on board.
History has proven that the United States’ only successes in changing Iranian behavior have been the result of a diplomacy-centric approach. Eschewing this strategy threatens to weaken and isolate the United States, spark a renewed nuclear crisis, and lead to eventual war.
Trump’s Twitter Diplomacy is Making International Engagement Impossible – Particularly with Countries Like Iran
- The Trump Administration has not engaged in serious diplomatic efforts with Iran. Tweets and outrageous public speeches are not how sensitive diplomacy works. The Trump administration reportedly decided to attempt to meet with President Rouhani following Trump’s provocative speech attacking Iran and North Korea at the United Nations. There did not appear to be any serious plan in place for such an effort.
- Instead of working with allies and pursuing further diplomacy, Trump has antagonized our partners in Europe by decertifying the deal and undermined moderates in Iran who have supported engagement.
- Trump’s careless diplomatic freelancing is only doing damage and preventing real diplomatic engagement. It took the U.S. and Iran 30+ years to engage in real diplomacy and produce an agreement. This is not a Manhattan real estate deal, this is sensitive international diplomacy and Trump is in over his head.
America Needs a Diplomacy-Centric Approach to Iran
- There is only one approach that has enhanced U.S. and regional security with Iran: the serious, multilateral negotiations that produced the JCPOA.The Iran nuclear deal was negotiated with our allies in Europe as well as Russia and China – none support Trump reopening the agreement or Congress unilaterally altering it, let alone Iran.
- The JCPOA could be a foundation to build upon, but only if the U.S. maintains its credibility by fulfilling its commitments under the accord; undermining and decertifying the accord will close off diplomatic opportunities – with Iran as well as the EU.
The Iran Deal is Working
- Just like Obamacare, Trump and Republicans claimed they wanted to kill the Iran deal but have no real plan to replace it. Trump accidentally called the bluff of Iran deal opponents. After years of Republicans claiming the JCPOA was a bad deal and promising on the campaign trail that they would “tear it up”, now that they have the opportunity they are balking because the Iran deal is working and killing it would be devastating to U.S. interests.
- Secretary of Defense James Mattis recently affirmed that staying in the JCPOA is in the national security interest of the United States.
- The JCPOA has rolled back Iran’s nuclear program and subjected it to the “world’s most robust nuclear verification regime,” according to IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano.
- IAEA Director Amano visited Tehran on October 29, 2017 and again publicly stated that Iran is in compliance with the JCPOA.
- The IAEA gained access to the Parchin military facility as a result of the JCPOA in 2015, and can gain access to any facility in Iran in short order under the JCPOA. No credible evidence of any malfeasance at Iranian military facilities has emerged to date.
- Although some lawmakers are concerned about certain sunset provisions, if the U.S. leaves the JCPOA and it disintegrates then everything sunsets immediately.
No, Iran’s “Malign Activities” in the Region Have Not Gotten Worse After the Deal
- According to Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Iran has directed the preponderance of the money gained from sanctions relief to “economic development and infrastructure.”
- Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford indicated in September that “Iran has not changed its malign activity in the region since JCPOA was signed.”
- Iran has continued to undertake ballistic missile testing at a rate that is consistent with past practices. However, thanks to the JCPOA, those missiles cannot be fitted with a nuclear warhead.
- Unfortunately, the Trump Administration is politicizing the intelligence on this issue. CIA Director Mike Pompeo has cast Iran as “dramatically” increasing its malign activities since the JCPOA was signed. Pompeo, who has a history of skewing the facts on Iran and is a close political ally of Trump, has been criticized for politicizing his position at the CIA. According to one official, “It’s almost as if he can’t resist the impulse to be political.”
Trump is Taking the U.S. Towards a War Path with Iran
- There are numerous tripwires for conflict across the region, including in Syria, Yemen and the Persian Gulf. Yet, there is no existing de-confliction channel and no diplomatic relationship with Iran to prevent a conflict from quickly spiraling out of control.
- A comprehensive American approach towards Iran must:
- Re-establish U.S. credibility with our international partners and Iran by making it clear that the U.S. will not abrogate the JCPOA.
- Establish a high-level bilateral channel with Iran to avoid an escalatory spiral and engage Iran on remaining issues of concern, including regional security and detained dual nationals in Iran.
- Launch comprehensive, multilateral diplomatic efforts with Iran aimed at resolving tensions. Such an approach should be based on a “more for more” approach, meaning the U.S. should propose lifting its remaining sanctions and embargo against Iran.
Washington, D.C. – NIAC Action Executive Director Jamal Abdi issued the following statement ahead of the expected passage of new Iran sanctions legislation in the House of Representatives:
“As Donald Trump is recklessly working to kill the Iran deal, Congress is whistling past the graveyard. The sanctions being passed by the House are nothing new, they are largely duplicative of counterproductive Iran sanctions already passed into law by Congress earlier this year. But even if passing this new bill is symbolism over substance, it is a risky provocation at the worst possible time. Donald Trump just refused to certify the Iran deal and called on Congress to unilaterally change the terms of the agreement, which would be a blatant violation of the accord. If they refuse, Trump said he would kill the deal himself.
“At best, the passage of these sanctions are an attempt by cooler heads on the Hill to pull the President back from the ledge without killing the deal. The reality is that many lawmakers who have publicly opposed the Iran deal privately recognize that it must be kept in place and that it serves U.S. interests. The President accidentally called their bluff by decertifying the agreement and now they want to dangle a shiny object in front of him to distract him, yet that can only work for so long.
“The stakes on Iran policy could not be higher. If the Iran nuclear deal is unraveled by Trump or Congress, the U.S. would face a second nuclear crisis and the very real threat of a new war of choice in the Middle East. Instead of passing more sanctions to try to placate Trump, Congress needs to put its foot down and reassure the rest of the world that the U.S. will abide by its word, it will not let Donald Trump kill the deal, and it will put the interests of the country above our current domestic political situation.”
On October 25, 2017, the House of Representatives is set to vote on the Iran Ballistic Missiles and International Sanctions Enforcement Act (H.R. 1698). The bill amends the Iran Sanctions Act to mandate the President to impose sanctions on parties providing support to Iran’s ballistic missile and conventional weapons programs.
President Trump’s refusal to certify the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has already begun to isolate the U.S. from its allies, weakening America’s hand on Iran policy and raising serious doubts that the U.S. will adhere to its obligations under the agreement. Congress must restore U.S. credibility and international unity by making it absolutely clear that America will uphold its commitments in spite of the President’s rhetoric and actions. The passage of new sanctions risks doing the opposite: sending a message to the world that the U.S. may indeed be hedging on its JCPOA commitments and that domestic politics trump international obligations.
If Congress and the Administration are serious about addressing Iran’s ballistic missile program and other issues of concern, there is a clear and obvious way: direct multilateral negotiations — the same kind that produced sustained and verifiable limits on Iran’s nuclear program for the first time in decades. The Administration’s recent actions significantly undermine any prospect of serious multilateral negotiations on remaining issues of concern with Iran, and Congressional sanctions will do further damage to prospects for a diplomatic solution. There has been no effort by this Administration to engage their Iranian counterparts, and claims of seeking to “bring Iran back to the table” in lieu of any serious attempt at dialogue ring hollow. Passage of sanctions within this diplomatic vacuum risks undermining the nuclear deal and damaging U.S. alliances. Instead of pursuing new sanctions, Congress should focus on restoring confidence that the U.S. will uphold its obligations under the JCPOA and remain committed to working with its international partners.
Sanctions and Reporting Requirements
The original bill had two main components:
(1) reporting requirements that mandate the President to detail Iran’s domestic and foreign supply chain in support of its ballistic missile program, as well as to submit tri-annual reports on Iran’s involvement in sanctionable activities related to its ballistic missile and conventional weapons programs; and
(2) amendments to the Iran Sanctions Act that mandate the imposition of sanctions on parties involved in or otherwise supporting Iran’s ballistic missile and conventional weapons programs.
Certain amendments inserted in committee include additional reporting requirements that would push the administration to re-impose sanctions on Iranian airlines in contravention of the JCPOA and revoke the licensed sale of aircraft to Iran. Moreover, these amendments mandate the President to impose sanctions on foreign States, such as Russia, that are engaged in the transfer of conventional military systems to Iran, such as the S-300 and S-400.
The bill would amend § 5(b) of the Iran Sanctions Act by mandating the President to impose sanctions with respect to:
(1) an agency or instrumentality of the Iranian government that seeks to develop, procure, or acquire goods, services, or technology that materially contributes to efforts by the Iranian government with respect to ballistic missile-related goods, services, and technologies in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 (UNSCR 2231);
(2) a foreign person or State if the foreign person or State knowingly provides material support to the Iranian government that materially contributes to Iranian government efforts with respect to ballistic missile-related goods, services, or technologies in violation of UNSCR 2231;
(3) a foreign person that the President determines knowingly engages in a significant transaction with, or provides significant financial services for, a foreign person or State described above with respect to proscribed ballistic missile-related activities;
(4) a foreign person or State if the President determines that the person or State knowingly imports, exports, or re-exports to, into, or from Iran, directly or indirectly, any significant arms or related materiel prohibited by UNSCR 2231; or
(5) persons that knowingly export or transfer, or permit or otherwise facilitate the transshipment or re-export of, goods, services, technology, or other items to Iran that materially contribute to Iran’s ability to (1) acquire or develop ballistic missiles or related launch technologies; or (2) acquire or develop destabilizing numbers and types of advanced conventional weapons.
The bill requires the President to submit several reports to Congress that are aimed at pressuring the administration to designate additional Iranian entities for sanctions violations, including by:
Detailing the foreign and domestic supply chain in Iran that directly or indirectly significantly facilitates, supports, or otherwise aids Iran’s ballistic missile program, as well as an assessment of the Government of Iran’s ability to indigenously manufacture or otherwise produce the goods, services, or technology meant to support its ballistic missile program;
Mandating the President to submit a report to Congress that details:
Iran’s efforts to develop, procure, or acquire goods, services, or technology for which sanctions may be imposed under the Iran Sanctions Act;
Iran’s acquisition or attempted acquisition of significant arms and related materiel in violation of UNSCR 2231;
Iran’s export or attempted export of significant arms or related materiel in violation of UNSCR 2231; and
Any UN Security Council approval for the export to Iran of significant arms or related material pursuant to UNSCR 2231.
Requiring the President to submit a report to Congress upon receipt of credible information that Iran has conducted a test of a ballistic missile fails to comply with, violates, or is in defiance of UNSCR 2231, detailing:
Iranian persons responsible for ordering, controlling, or otherwise directing the missile test and determining whether such persons are subject to U.S. sanctions as of the date of the report; and
Available information on the ballistic missile or the generic class of ballistic missile or space rocket that was launched, in addition to technical information including the trajectory, duration, range, and altitude of the missile flight, launch location and impact point, and payloads.
Reporting requirements inserted in committee could pose additional complications for the implementation of the JCPOA. An amendment from Rep. Brad Sherman, now included as Section 5, requires the President to determine every 180 days whether the Government of Iran has used any commercial aircraft for military or other illicit activities:
Pursuant to the JCPOA, the U.S. is permitted to revoke licenses for the sale of aircraft to Iran only if the licensed aircraft are transferred to or otherwise used by parties identified on the SDN list or if the aircraft are used for purposes other than civil aviation. Hence, the reporting requirement is broader than what is covered by the JCPOA by examining Iran’s entire aviation sector rather than simply licensed aircraft;
By requiring the President to report on the extent to which Iran’s entire commercial aviation sector is involved in sanctionable conduct, the amendment seeks to establish a factual basis to support the ultimate designation of Iran Air – or, more broadly, Iran’s commercial aviation sector – regardless of how licensed aircraft have been used;
Any such re-imposition of sanctions, absent evidence that Iran has used or is using licensed aircraft for non-commercial purposes, would be a violation of U.S. commitments under the JCPOA and would render a fatal blow to the licensed sale of U.S. aircraft to Iran.
An amendment from Rep. Steve Chabot, now included as Section 4, also poses complications for Iran policy. Upon receipt of credible information that destabilizing numbers and types of conventional weapons have been sold or transferred to Iran, the President shall notify Congress of the sale or transfer and determine whether various sanctions laws are applicable to the sale:
This reporting requirement would include the sale of the S-300 missile defense system to Iran, which Russia has already provided and is not prohibited by any UN Security Council Resolution, in addition to the S-400 system that has not been sold;
As a result, the provision could push the administration to sanction Russia for providing conventional defensive weaponry to Iran, in addition to other states, despite the lack of clear prohibitions on such transfers;
Such a stance could complicate efforts to present a united front toward Iran and lead toward a fracturing of international unity in implementing existing sanctions on Iran.
On October 25, 2017, the House is set to vote on H.R. 3329, the ‘Hizballah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act of 2017.’ The bill, as drafted, imposes new sanctions that appear to be targeted at Iran’s support for Hizballah, including any Iranian financial institutions and government agencies or instrumentalities that provide material support to Hizballah. As such, the bill could pose potential issues for future U.S. compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (“JCPOA”) — the nuclear accord between the U.S., other major world powers, and Iran.
Lawmakers should clarify that the intent of H.R. 3329 is not to violate the JCPOA and that passage of the legislation is not an invitation for the White House to utilize the authorities to violate or otherwise undermine the JCPOA. Furthermore, lawmakers should utilize debate over the bill as an opportunity to urge the Trump administration to restore U.S. credibility and international unity by recommitting to uphold U.S. obligations under the JCPOA in full.
U.S.’s JCPOA Commitments
Under the JCPOA, the United States is committed to refrain from re-imposing the sanctions lifted under the nuclear accord and specified in Annex II to the JCPOA. This includes, but is not limited to, a commitment to remove certain Iranian individuals and entities from U.S. sanctions lists, effectuating the end of sanctions as applied to such parties. Moreover, the United States is obligated to “prevent interference with the realization of the full benefit by Iran of the sanctions lifting specified [under the JCPOA],” and to “refrain from any action…that would undermine its successful implementation.” Finally, for purposes relevant herein, the United States is required to “refrain from any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalization of trade and economic relations with Iran inconsistent with [its] commitments not to undermine the successful implementation of the JCPOA.” Indeed, the United States has the positive obligation under the JCPOA to “agree on steps to ensure Iran’s access in areas of trade, technology, finance and energy.”
Bill Poses a Threat to U.S.’s JCPOA Commitments
H.R. 3329 poses potential threats to U.S. commitments under the JCPOA, particularly the commitments to refrain from re-imposing sanctions lifted under the nuclear accord and to prevent interference with Iran’s realization of the full benefit of the JCPOA’s sanctions lifting. Lawmakers should clarify that the legislation is not intended to violate or enable the administration to utilize the authorities to act inconsistent with U.S. obligations under the JCPOA.
Mandatory Sanctions on Foreign Parties Engaged in Sanctionable Activities
The bill imposes mandatory sanctions on foreign parties that provide material support to groups, organizations, media outlets, and foreign persons that are related to or acting for or on behalf of Hizballah. Section 101 of the bill mandates the President to impose blocking sanctions on any foreign person that is determined to knowingly assist, sponsor, or provide significant financial, material, or technological support to certain Hizballah-related entities and media outlets, as well as to any other parties engaged in fundraising or recruitment activities on behalf of Hizballah. While the bill does provide for the President to exercise waivers if doing so is vital to the U.S. national security interest, the bill nonetheless forces the President to brief Congress before effecting any such waiver as to its justification. As a result, Congress intends to exercise intense scrutiny and oversight on the President’s use of waivers.
Setting the Stage for the Re-Designation of Iranian Banks?
The bill also requires the President to submit a report to Congress as to whether Iranian banks are engaged in sanctionable activities related to Hizballah, including, but not limited to, the provision of support to entities designated for acting for or on behalf of Hizballah (e.g., Bank Saderat). For instance, the bill amends Section 102 of the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015 by mandating the President to submit to Congress an annual report identifying each foreign bank that engages in activities sanctionable under that earlier legislation, including, but not limited to, knowingly facilitating a significant transaction for Hizballah or for parties placed on OFAC’s SDN List for acting for or on behalf of Hizballah. The President’s report is limited to those foreign banks that operate in or are organized under the laws of a U.S.-designated state sponsor of terrorism (e.g., Iran). As a result, this specific provision appears intended to set the stage for the President to designate additional Iranian banks under Executive Order 13224, which could effectuate the re-designation of and re-imposition of U.S. sanctions on Iranian banks and seriously impede Iran’s access to the global financial system in violation of U.S. commitments under the JCPOA.
Mandatory Sanctions on Government Agencies or Instrumentalities
Furthermore, the bill mandates the President to impose sanctions on agencies or instrumentalities of a foreign State, if such agencies or instrumentalities are engaged in the provision of significant financial or material support for, or arms or related material to, Hizballah or entities owned or controlled by Hizballah. Moreover, if the foreign State for which an agency or instrumentality has been so sanctioned under this bill is a U.S.-designated state sponsor of terrorism, then the President shall require a license under the Export Administration Regulations (“EAR”), 15 C.F.R. Parts 734-770, to export or re-export to that foreign State (e.g., Iran) any item designated as EAR99, other than food, medicine, medical devices, or similarly licensed items. It is unclear whether this requirement would derail licensed activities such as the Personal Communications General Licenses to facilitate the provision of information and free expression in Iran. Currently, under existing U.S. sanctions regulations, OFAC exercises full and complete control over the export of U.S. items to Iran.
Finally, the bill amends Section 104(c)(2) of the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Accountability and Divestment Act (CISADA) of 2010 by effectively adding an interpretive note explaining that if a foreign bank facilitates efforts of the Iranian government to provide support for Hizballah or its affiliates, then that foreign financial institution could be the subject of correspondent and payable-through account sanctions, which would effectively terminate its access to the U.S. financial system.
NIAC is seeking a fundraising professional for immediate hire.
NIAC is accepting applications from candidates with 6-10+ years of fundraising experience at the Development Director level. Candidates with less experience but a passion for fundraising and NIAC’s mission will be considered at the Development Manager level if they have 3-5 years of fundraising experience or at the Associate level with 1-3 years of fundraising experience.
The position will work with NIAC’s president in spearheading fundraising activities as NIAC continues to grow. A successful candidate must be prepared to grow NIAC’s $1.5M budget through the management of fundraising events, cultivation of donors, and solicitation of major gifts, grassroots contributions, and foundation support. S/he will also support NIAC’s President and board members as they take on an active fundraising role.
The Development professional will also work with NIAC’s sister advocacy organization, NIAC Action. In this capacity, s/he will raise dedicated funds for NIAC Action and oversee member events with political candidates.
- Develop and execute NIAC’s annual fundraising plan, collaborating with NIAC’s President and COO to establish annual budget revenue targets by source type
- Secure financial support from major donors, grassroots supporters, foundations and corporate sponsors
- Work with the Events Manager to develop and promote successful fundraising events
- Support and partner with the President and board members on all major fundraising initiatives
- Prepare donor reports and analysis to board and senior leaders
- Develop and maintain ongoing relationships with major donors and current or potential foundation partners
- Create and execute a strategy for increasing NIAC’s base of individual donors
- Track grant deadlines and work with the relevant colleagues to prepare and submit grant proposals and reports
- Manage and develop NIAC’s stewardship efforts aimed at cultivating deeper ties with donors
- 6-10+ years of fundraising experience at Director level. Candidates with less experience but a passion for fundraising and NIAC’s mission will be considered at the Development Manager level if they have 3-5 years of fundraising experience or at the Associate level with 1-2 years of fundraising experience.
- Bachelor’s degree required
- Demonstrated success in a development function (managing and forging relationships with multiple donor sources) required
- Persian (Farsi) language ability and familiarity with the Iranian-American community strongly preferred
- Excellent communication skills, both written and oral; ability to influence and engage a wide range of donors and build long-term relationships
- Flexible and adaptable style; a leader who can positively impact both strategic and tactical fundraising initiatives in a rapidly evolving environment
- Must be able to work independently and as a team player, to take initiative, and to manage multiple tasks and projects at a time
- Knowledge and passion for NIAC’s mission is essential
- Ability to develop and implement annual strategic development plan required
- Strong organizational and time management skills with close attention to detail required
- Political campaign fundraising experience a plus
- Knowledge of Salesforce a plus
- Some travel required
- Position may be carried out from NIAC’s Washington, DC headquarters or Iranian-American population centers like Los Angeles or San Francisco.
To Apply: Interested candidates should send a cover letter with salary requirements and resume to David Elliott at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Development Director”, ”Development Manager” or “Development Associate”.
Salary & Benefits
Salary depends on experience. Fortune 100-style benefits include:
- Generous health, dental, vision, long-term disability, and life insurance plans
- 15 days of annual paid leave and 12 paid holidays
- 401k with 2% company match
- Tax-advantaged commuter benefits program
- Additional benefits through TotalSource benefits partner include: training opportunities, corporate discounts, and Employee Assistance Program
About NIAC Action:
NIAC Action is the grassroots, civic action organization committed to advancing peace and championing the priorities of the Iranian-American community. We are a nonpartisan nonprofit and the 501(c)4 sister organization of the National Iranian American Council, which works to strengthen the Iranian-American community and promote greater understanding between the American and Iranian people.