Memo: Congress Must Clarify No Authorization for Iran War, Urge Deescalation after Saudi Oil Attack

President Trump is once again hinting that he will go to war with Iran via Twitter, this time over attacks on key Saudi Arabian oil facilities for which the Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed credit. At this time, there is no clear smoking gun to implicate Iran despite the Trump administration’s strident condemnations.

For lawmakers, it is imperative to reinforce:

1)   Congress has not authorized war against Iran, nor has the United Nations. Any strikes on Iran without authorization would be illegal.

2)   There is no clear evidence implicating Iran – but even if there was, a Trump-led war on a nation nearly four times the size of Iraq would be a costly, generational mistake. Iran has signaled it will retaliate forcefully against any attacks on its territory.

3)   If it was the Houthis who initiated the attack, as they have claimed, it is yet another clear sign that the Yemen war needs to end. Not only is the war a disaster for Yemen, but it is achieving the opposite of its goals by eroding the security of Saudi Arabia.

4)   If Iran is implicated as the sponsor of the attack, it would be yet another sign that Trump’s maximum pressure approach is a catastrophic failure. Far from ease regional tensions and Iran’s military footprint, Trump’s approach is ensuring the reverse.

5)   Regardless of the sponsor, now is the time for de-escalation. The skeleton for a deal is on the table – the international community would ease economic pressure on Iran in exchange for Iranian restraint and further negotiations. 

We are at this crisis point because of the convergence of two self-inflicted disasters spurred by our impulsive President: the decision to abandon the Iran nuclear deal and impose “maximum pressure” sanctions; and the refusal to pull out of the war on Yemen and seriously press for Saudi Arabia to deescalate there.

At this juncture, Trump can choose diplomacy and peace or repeat the mistakes that led to the 2003 invasion of Iraq with Iran. With the region at a boiling point, all lawmakers need to be strongly urging restraint and reinforcing that there is no authorization for war.

House NDAA Clarifies Trump Has No War Authorization for Iran

 

 

 

 

Jamal Abdi, Executive Director of NIAC Action, issued the following statement after the House of Representatives passed a version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) clarifying that the use of armed forces against Iran is not authorized by Congress:

“The House of Representatives just made clear that the President does not have authorization from Congress to launch a war against Iran. This is vital, as the elevation of Iran warhawks in John Bolton and Mike Pompeo and the violation of the Iran nuclear deal has put another disastrous war of choice in the Middle East back on the table.

“Trump himself has hinted at military action against Iran and both he and Pompeo have taken a page from the Iraq war playbook by falsely linking Iran to al-Qaeda. Representatives Keith Ellison (D-MN), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Jim McGovern (D-MA), and Walter Jones (R-NC) deserve tremendous credit for taking a stand for peace and Congress’ Constitutional war-making authorities by introducing the amendment and ensuring its passage in the House. Now, the Senate should make sure that this clear statement of fact is included in the final version of the NDAA.

“This is a welcome step, but far more political and legal constraints are needed to ensure Trump, Bolton and Pompeo cannot put their war plans into place. The Trump administration has shredded norms and constraints across the board, and with Iran that is no exception. Unless lawmakers want to see the mistakes of the Iraq war repeated, they need to step up and rein in the Trump administration on Iran across the board.”

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NIAC Action Statement on Confirmation of Pompeo

Washington, DC – NIAC Action Executive Director Jamal Abdi issued the following statement after the US Senate voted to confirm Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo:

“The Senate has made a mistake of historic proportions by rubber stamping Donald Trump’s war cabinet. The U.S. appears headed towards a catastrophic exit from the Iran deal in spite of the pleas of our closest allies and Mike Pompeo will only encourage Trump off the brink. Along with National Security Advisor John Bolton, Trump will now be surrounded by advisors eager to finish scrapping the deal, alienating our allies, and beginning a major destabilization in the region that could likely lead to war with Iran. Pompeo has proven he has no interest for diplomatic solutions with Iran and, like Bolton, favors a violent U.S.-led regime change.

“The Senate failed to put country over party and every Senator who voted for Pompeo is responsible for what comes next. We are disappointed in Republicans and Democrats who continue to fail to reign in this reckless President. While the GOP is acting as Trump’s rubber stamp, even the Senate’s Democratic leadership failed to take necessary actions to stop Pompeo.

“A majority on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee did recognize the unique danger of Pompeo and nearly sunk his nomination before Senator Rand Paul flipped his vote. Having failed to block Pompeo, every member of Congress who claimed to have concerns with Pompeo’s hawkish inclinations is now accountable to take immediate action to stop an escalation and war in the Middle East. Congress must restrain Trump and prevent his war cabinet from withdrawing from the nuclear deal and starting a new, disastrous war of choice in the Middle East.

“Qualified Secretaries of State are usually confirmed with almost unanimous support. Pompeo owes his divisive nomination to his own poor judgment. He has beat the drums of war with Iran and stigmatized Muslims, immigrants, women, the LGBTQ community, and anyone who did not fit into his narrow and bigoted vision for America. While we hope that the responsibility of the office changes him for the better, he has failed to face significant consequences for his divisive past and is unlikely to change in the future.”

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Top Five Takeaways From Mike Pompeo’s Nomination Hearing

At his confirmation hearing to become President Trump’s next Secretary of State, CIA Director Mike Pompeo offered little reassurance that he has tempered his hawkish inclinations on Iran or distanced himself from past bigoted remarks. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is planning to vote on Pompeo as soon as next week, and there is a likelihood he may not gain the votes necessary to earn the committee’s support – no one in modern history has become Secretary of State without winning that endorsement. Below are five key moments from the hearing that demonstrate why Pompeo is unfit to be Secretary of State:

Pompeo Offered No Reassurances on Protecting the Iran Deal from Trump and Bolton

Director Pompeo demurred when Senator Jeff Merkley asked if he was going to be part of a “war cabinet” with John Bolton. But his comments on Iran left little question that Pompeo would work to spike the Iran deal and put the U.S. on a potential war path with Iran. Pompeo vowed that he would follow Trump’s directive to try to “fix” perceived deficiencies in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). However, when pressed by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) on whether he would recommend staying in the JCPOA if he couldn’t fix it by May 12, Pompeo refused to answer because he said it was a hypothetical – even though it is one that he could face in his first weeks on the job. When pressed further, Pompeo made clear that he would not caution against Trump snapping back sanctions and that he would instead work for a “better agreement” after Trump walks away from the deal.

View the full post on The Iranian…

Memo: The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Economic Exclusion Act (H.R. 5132)

If passed in its current form, H.R. 5132 – the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Economic Exclusion Act – threatens to violate the JCPOA, undermine current long-term restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program, and splinter the United States from its European allies and other international partners. This bill threatens the JCPOA and ordinary Iranians, not the IRGC.

Key provisions of the bill appear targeted not at the heavily-sanctioned IRGC, but at deterring companies from doing business with Iran’s private sector in violation of U.S. commitments under the JCPOA. The Iran nuclear deal not only maintains the already extensive sanctions in place on the IRGC, it implicitly opens opportunities for economic competitors to the IRGC in Iran’s private sectors by enabling them to receive the benefit of sanctions relief. Contrary to this approach, H.R. 5132 would accrue to the benefit of the IRGC and undercut ongoing trends that are diminishing their economic influence, including the Iranian Supreme Leader’s direction – under popular pressure – that the IRGC must divest many of its holdings.

This legislation also comes amid Trump’s reckless threats to unilaterally terminate the JCPOA, an outcome which Europe and many in Congress are seeking to prevent. This is the wrong bill at the wrong time; Members of Congress should be restraining this President from killing this key nonproliferation agreement and moving toward war, not coaxing him forward.

Turning Iran into a “No Fly Zone”?

Section 5 of the bill would trigger a process to designate Iran Airports Company – which reportedly owns and controls all of Iran’s civilian airports – as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under E.O. 13224 as a result of its reported facilitation of Mahan Air flights. If so designated, all of Iran’s civilian airports would likewise be constructively blocked under the U.S.’s Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations (GTSR)s, placing all international flights to Iran at the risk of future designation. The U.S. already bans Iranians from visiting their families in the U.S. under Trump’s Muslim ban, this bill now threatens to ban all civilian flights into Iran. Moreover, such a designation would also jeopardize U.S. commitments under the JCPOA to license the sale of civilian aircraft to Iran.

Reimposing Sanctions Lifted Under JCPOA

Section 4 of H.R. 5132 threatens to re-impose sanctions on Iranian financial institutions that were delisted under the JCPOA, which would be a clear violation of U.S. sanctions-lifting obligations under the nuclear agreement. By requiring the President to identify any Iranian financial institutions that have facilitated transactions even tangentially linked to the IRGC, the bill could subject Iran’s central bank and other major financial institutions to secondary sanctions.  The lifting of these sanctions was central to the relief promised Iran under the JCPOA; the reimposition of such sanctions would effectively nullify any benefit to Iran from agreeing to long-term restrictions on its nuclear program.

Additionally, the bill defines Iranian financial institutions to include all financial institutions located in Iran. Under this definition, branches or representative offices of non-Iranian, foreign financial institutions that are located in Iran would be reported as “Iranian financial institutions.” Even if such institutions have not engaged in transactions with the IRGC, the inclusion of their name on mandated U.S. government reports – which may be publicized – would act as an effective deterrent to opening or maintaining branches or representative offices in Iran. This is anathema to the U.S.’s JCPOA commitment to agree on steps to facilitate Iran’s access to finance.

Moreover, in mandating the administration to report on all foreign entities on the Tehran stock exchange and all foreign persons operating major businesses in Iran, the bill may undermine its own goals of increasing sanctions pressure. The Obama administration set a precedent by threatening to veto the Iranian Leadership Asset Transparency Act (H.R. 1638), indicating that similar reporting requirements under that bill 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.”

The Obama administration also indicated in its veto threat that JCPOA participants would view the public reporting requirement as hedging on U.S. JCPOA commitments. Given the breadth of reporting requirements the bill would impose on the Treasury Department, H.R. 5132 would almost certainly raise similar concerns.

Coaxing Trump to Violate JCPOA

Section 6 of the bill declares that it shall be U.S. policy to prevent Iran’s accession to the World Trade Organization and similar international bodies, which is contrary to U.S. obligations under the JCPOA to facilitate Iran’s access to trade and finance. This risks undermining efforts by international bodies to facilitate changes to Iran’s economic and financial character in ways that advance U.S. foreign policy objectives.

Broad Sectoral Sanctions Stifle Communication and Violate the JCPOA

Section 2 of the bill requires the President to determine whether major Iranian entities, including those in Iran’s telecommunications, construction, engineering, and mining sectors, should be sanctioned as under the effective ownership or control of the IRGC. In doing so, this bill seeks to sanction broad sectors of the Iranian economy in ways that are even more aspirational than those sanctions pre-dating the nuclear agreement. Doing so would be not only anathema to U.S. obligations under the JCPOA to facilitate Iran’s access to trade and finance, but would effectively nullify any benefit to Iran from agreeing to long-term restrictions on its nuclear program.

Moreover, by targeting Iran’s telecommunications sector, the bill could prevent outside telecommunication vendors from working in Iran. Such vendors are crucial for the cell phone, Internet, and other communication infrastructure that the Iranian people rely on to communicate freely, both internally and with the outside world.

Memo: Netanyahu’s Claims on Iran Don’t Match the Facts

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at the Munich Security Conference was full of eye-popping distortions on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iran nuclear deal. Those remarks were forcefully rebutted by former Secretary of State John Kerry, who reiterated in the starkest terms yet how the Obama administration had resisted explicit calls from Netanyahu, as well as King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and President Mubarak of Egypt, to bomb Iran rather than engage in nuclear negotiations. Given that Netanyahu appears to prefer war to the hard-fought security gains of the JCPOA, his remarks are not surprising – but they do deserve scrutiny and rebutting.

JCPOA

Netanyahu labeled the JCPOA as “appeasement” and falsely stated that it “has begun the countdown to an Iranian nuclear arsenal in little more than a decade.” Kerry directly addressed this claim, asserting that it is “fundamentally not accurate with respect to this agreement.”

The JCPOA obligates Iran to refrain from ever seeking, developing or acquiring nuclear weapons and will ensure intrusive inspections of Iran’s entire nuclear program in perpetuity. As Kerry noted, thanks to the JCPOA, “[t]oday we have 130 additional inspectors on the ground in Iran, inspecting radio-transmitted, sealed centrifuges and facilities on a daily basis.” If Iran chooses to break its commitments in pursuit of a nuclear arsenal under the JCPOA they would be detected and the U.S. would have the same options to respond – this will hold true even after certain restrictions expire.  

It is also worth noting that there is a sharp divide on the JCPOA between Netanyahu and the Israeli security establishment. As Haaretz reported in October, Netanyahu’s anti-JCPOA stance “is at odds with most Israeli experts in Military Intelligence and in the IDFs Planning Directorate, the Mossad, Foreign Ministry and the Atomic Energy Committee.” Moreover, the report indicated that “all Israeli intelligence bodies dealing with the Iranian issue are united in the opinion that…Iran hasn’t been caught violating a single clause.”

For those with legitimate concerns about the sunset of enrichment restrictions in the out-years of the JCPOA, it might be possible for the U.S. to seek a follow-on agreement through serious diplomacy. But that possibility will be dashed if the U.S. fails to uphold its end of the bargain, as the Trump administration appears determined to do. As it stands now, killing the deal now out of fears that the agreement’s terms won’t last forever – and then expecting President Trump to negotiate a better deal after alienating our negotiating partners – is simply irrational.

Missiles

Netanyahu cited Iran’s missile testing, arguing that Iran is “developing ballistic missiles to reach deep into Europe and to the United States as well.” The track record of Iran’s recent testing contradicts Netanyahu’s claims. According to a recent analysis from the Center for Nonproliferation Studies and Nuclear Threat Initiative, it appears “the JCPOA has helped redirect Iran’s priorities for its missile program away from developing an ICBM (whose only purpose would be as a nuclear delivery system), to developing solid-fueled versions of its short-range missiles.” This also matches Iran’s stated policy, with the apparent endorsement of Iran’s Supreme Leader, to limit its missile program to a 2,000 kilometer radius around Iran. As a result, there is little evidence to back up Netanyahu’s claim on missiles.

Iranian Empire

Netanyahu also claimed that Iran “seeks to dominate the world through aggression and terror” and “hopes to complete a contiguous empire.”

Iran continues to exert its influence in the Middle East, including in ways that run counter to U.S. interests, such as the apparent flight of a drone into Israeli air space. However, Iran is not in any way positioned to establish an “empire” or dominate the region, much less the world.

Iran’s military capabilities are still outmatched by Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States. In response to the drone flight into Israeli airspace, Israel took out Iranian and Syrian regime positions and defenses in Syria, albeit not without cost. In addition to a capable and modern air force, Israel possesses nuclear-tipped missiles. Iran has neither. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, also possesses a modern air force and outspent Iran militarily by a 5:1 rate in 2016, amid the JCPOA’s implementation. As Vali Nasr, Dean of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, wrote in Foreign Affairs, many in Tehran who backed the JCPOA were disappointed as “Iran had given up an important asset only to see the conventional military gap with its regional rivals widen,” thanks to arms sales under the Obama administration.

Moving Forward

Iran is a regional power that engages in many activities that are counter to U.S. interests, and policymakers should carefully consider how to address them. Historically, bluster and confrontation have failed, while serious multilateral diplomacy has resulted in significant Iranian concessions on the nuclear issue. If we throw out that successful playbook and buy into Netanyahu’s fear mongering of an imminent Iranian nuclear arsenal and empire we risk unraveling the security gains from the JCPOA and moving rapidly toward a disastrous war with Iran.

Netanyahu, facing a corruption inquiry at home, will likely reprise his role as the JCPOA’s foremost opponent as the Trump administration weighs the fate of the agreement. While Israel has legitimate concerns regarding Iran, Netanyahu’s fabrications and exaggerations undermine his credibility on a nuclear agreement that has enhanced both Israeli and American security. As the Director of National Intelligence, Daniel Coats, stated in testimony during the Worldwide Threats report last week:

“Iran’s implementation of the JCPOA has extended the amount of time Iran would need to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon from a few months to about one year, provided Iran continues to adhere to the deal’s major provisions. The JCPOA has also enhanced the transparency of Iran’s nuclear activities, mainly by fostering improved access to Iranian nuclear facilities for the IAEA and its investigative authorities under the Additional Protocol to its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement.”

No amount of spin from Netanyahu can reverse the deal’s success, nor the fact that diplomacy has succeeded where bluster and unilateral demands failed. Policymakers should consider Netanyahu’s statements on Iran with a healthy dose of skepticism and reject his self-destructive attempts to undermine the JCPOA and force the United States into a military conflict with Iran.

NIAC Survey Reveals Great Concern About War and Discrimination

NIAC’s annual survey of over 1,000 of its donors and supporters reveal a community that is increasingly impacted by discrimination and which remains committed to advocating for diplomacy and preventing war and reversing Donald Trump’s Muslim ban.

Concerns of War and a Permanent Muslim Ban

Two-thirds of respondents are concerned that the U.S. may go to war with Iran under the Trump administration. Of even greater concern is the possibility that the courts may reinstate the Muslim Ban and permanently ban Iranians, with 72% of respondents indicating that they are ‘very concerned.’

Sadly, respondents reported that instances of discrimination have increased over the last year. One third of respondents reported that they know someone who has been impacted by the Muslim Ban and 42% feel they are affected by negative depictions of Iranians in U.S. media.

Advocacy and Political Priorities

Advocacy goals of NIAC Action members.

Advancing diplomacy with Iran to protect the nuclear deal and avoid armed conflict was ranked as the highest advocacy priority by supporters, followed by seeking an end to the Muslim Ban. Protecting civil rights was ranked as the third priority, followed by lifting sanctions to enable US-Iran trade, and supporting human rights in Iran. These priorities reflect those of past surveys with the notable and unfortunate addition of the Muslim Ban.  

Respondents said they would like to see NIAC Action continue to   support political candidates who are committed to advancing Iranian-American interests: 45% prioritized helping to get Iranian Americans elected to Congress; 43% prioritized helping Democrats retake Congress in 2018; and 29% would like to work with NIAC Action to donate to candidates who will work with our community on issues like protecting the Iran deal and ending the Muslim ban.

Continuing our mission

NIAC surveys its donors and supporters to set its advocacy priorities for the current year. The results of past surveys have consistently mirrored the views of the majority of Iranian Americans, as expressed in statistical surveys of the broader Iranian-American community conducted by universities and professional pollsters.

We wish to thank all those who took part in this year’s survey. Your participation ensures that our community is unified as we move forward to tackle the most pressing issues confronting Iranian Americans. We look forward to working together to accomplish our goals and increase our community’s political influence in the years to come.

Memo: Standing in Solidarity with the Iranian People

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:

  1. 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. 
  2. 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;  
  3. 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;
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

 

Memo: H.R. 1638 and H.R. 4324

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.

A PDF of this Memo can be found here.

NIAC Action Statement on House Passage of Iran Sanctions Bill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jamal Abdi
Phone: 206.369.2069

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.”

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National Grassroots Organizations to Congress: Stop Trump From Killing Iran Deal

September 13, 2017

Senators and Members of the House of Representatives:

Click to view original PDF of letter sent to Congress

We are organizations that represent tens of millions of Americans writing to express our profound concern that recent moves by the White House risk putting the United States on the path to another costly and disastrous war of choice in the Middle East. We respectfully urge that you, as our elected representatives in a co-equal branch of government, do everything in Congress’ power to prevent Donald Trump from dismantling the Iran nuclear deal and from escalating towards a disastrous war with Iran. Americans are all too familiar with the consequences of a war of choice in the Middle East following the war in Iraq. Thousands of our brave men and women in uniform were killed, tens of thousands more were wounded, hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi lives were lost and taxpaying families have shouldered trillions of dollars of debt. And still today, the fallout from the invasion is undermining U.S. national security. A war against Iran, with more than twice Iraq’s population and nearly four times its size, would likely be more devastating. Abandoning a diplomatic success and launching another costly war of choice would be rightly seen as one of

We are organizations that represent tens of millions of Americans writing to express our profound concern that recent moves by the White House risk putting the United States on the path to another costly and disastrous war of choice in the Middle East. We respectfully urge that you, as our elected representatives in a co-equal branch of government, do everything in Congress’ power to prevent Donald Trump from dismantling the Iran nuclear deal and from escalating towards a disastrous war with Iran. Americans are all too familiar with the consequences of a war of choice in the Middle East following the war in Iraq. Thousands of our brave men and women in uniform were killed, tens of thousands more were wounded, hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi lives were lost and taxpaying families have shouldered trillions of dollars of debt. And still today, the fallout from the invasion is undermining U.S. national security. A war against Iran, with more than twice Iraq’s population and nearly four times its size, would likely be more devastating. Abandoning a diplomatic success and launching another costly war of choice would be rightly seen as one of

Americans are all too familiar with the consequences of a war of choice in the Middle East following the war in Iraq. Thousands of our brave men and women in uniform were killed, tens of thousands more were wounded, hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi lives were lost and taxpaying families have shouldered trillions of dollars of debt. And still today, the fallout from the invasion is undermining U.S. national security. A war against Iran, with more than twice Iraq’s population and nearly four times its size, would likely be more devastating. Abandoning a diplomatic success and launching another costly war of choice would be rightly seen as one of

A war against Iran, with more than twice Iraq’s population and nearly four times its size, would likely be more devastating. Abandoning a diplomatic success and launching another costly war of choice would be rightly seen as one of history’s great blunders, devastating America’s standing and security while destroying countless lives.

Iran engages in harmful non-nuclear behavior that poses challenges to the United States and the region. Yet the most successful effort to resolve challenges with Iran has been through diplomatic engagement, which produced the historic Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The JCPOA is successfully blocking Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon, re-obligating the Iranian government in perpetuity to never acquire a nuclear weapon and to permit intrusive inspections. Iran’s compliance has been repeatedly and consistently certified by the International Atomic Energy Agency and supported by the assessment of the U.S. intelligence community.

Unfortunately, Donald Trump and his administration have cast doubt on continued American compliance with the JCPOA in a series of concerning statements and reports. Trump has publicly contemplated withholding certification of the JCPOA in mid-October regardless of Iranian actions, which would almost certainly upend the nuclear accord by triggering the reinstatement of nuclear sanctions. Additionally, in a repeat of the effort to build the case for the Iraq war under a newly created ‘Office of Special Plans’ in 2002, the Trump White House has assigned a team of ideological advisers to lay the groundwork to terminate the JCPOA.

The Trump White House’s threats to dismantle the JCPOA are tremendously dangerous for the U.S. and the entire world. As dozens of retired Generals and Admirals wrote in a letter to Trump in July, the administration must “recognize the national security benefits of the nuclear agreement and appropriately weigh the risks to our troops of escalating tensions with Iran.”

The implementation of the JCPOA and the administration’s handling of U.S. policy toward Iran is a life-or-death matter for countless Americans, Iranians and others in the region. We ask you to do all that is in your power to sustain the JCPOA and help prevent a senseless slide to war.

Sincerely,

Americans for Peace Now
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Sec. Mattis: Staying in the JCPOA is in the U.S. National Interest

Secretary of Defense James Mattis affirmed during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today that staying in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is in the U.S. national interest. This statement is significant for several reasons, but perhaps most importantly because it undercuts the likely justification the Trump administration could use to withhold certification of the accord to Congress in advance of the upcoming Oct. 15th deadline mandated by the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act.
 
Senator Angus King (I-ME) asked Mattis whether “it’s in our national security interest at the present time to remain in the JCPOA,” prompting a response of “Yes, Senator, I do,” from Mattis.
 
The Trump administration must affirm every 90 days that Iran is abiding by the terms of the JCPOA and has not committed a material breach, that Iran has not made any significant advances toward a nuclear weapon and that continuing sanctions relief – and thus staying in the JCPOA – is in the U.S. national interest. If the administration fails to certify, as Trump has strongly hinted is his preference, Congress would have sixty days to snap back nuclear sanctions under expedited procedure and effectively kill the JCPOA. Trump has no solid basis to withhold certification under any of those justifications.
 
International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano has clarified that Iran is abiding by the terms of the JCPOA and that verification under the nuclear accord is strong. In mid-September, Amano stated “The nuclear-related commitments undertaken by Iran under the JCPOA are being implemented” and that “Iran is now subject to the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime.” 
 
Top military brass and U.S. intelligence have also affirmed Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA. At the same hearing today, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford affirmed that “Iran is not in material breach of the agreement and I do believe that the agreement to date has delayed the development of a nuclear capability by Iran.” In September, Gen. Dunford asserted “The briefings I have received indicate that Iran is adhering to its JCPOA obligations.” In mid-July, General Paul Selva, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also stated “Based on the evidence that’s been presented by the intelligence community, it appears that Iran is in compliance with the rules that were laid out in the JCPOA.” 
 
Further, seven ranking members in the Senate wrote in a letter to the administration that “the President himself has twice certified that Iran is complying, and that continuing to abide by the agreement is in the vital national security interests of the United States…We are unaware of any information in the interim that would argue for a change in those determinations in October. “
 
Mattis did indicate that the certification mandated by the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act is separate from walking away from the agreement, noting that the administration is considering “how we deal with both the legal requirement from the Congress as well as the international agreement.” That is technically true, though a Presidential decertification would place the onus on Congress to refrain from snapping back nuclear sanctions under the expedited procedure triggered by decertification in order to stay in the agreement. It would also open a Pandora’s box as to how Iran, and the international community, might react to such a move. Mattis also asserted that “if we can confirm that Iran is living by the agreement, if we can determine that this is in our best interest, then clearly we should stay with it.” He elaborated, “I believe at this point in time, absent indications to the contrary, it is something that the President should consider staying with.”
 
To recap: there is no credible indication Iran is violating the agreement, nor that Iran is making progress toward a nuclear weapon. Secretary of Defense James Mattis has asserted that it remains in the U.S. interest to stay in the JCPOA. Yet still, by all indications Trump may jeopardize U.S. interests by decertifying the accord and threatening to enable Congress to scuttle the deal for him. If the President follows through on his decertification threat, Congress must protect U.S. interests by abstaining from snapping back sanctions or any additional steps that threaten the accord.