NIAC Applauds House for Pulling U.S. Back from the Brink of War with Iran via Khanna-Gaetz Amendment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday July 12, 2019
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | mana@niacaction.org

WASHINGTON DC – Moments ago, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass a bipartisan amendment from Reps. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL) to bar funding for an unauthorized war with Iran. The amendment passed with a final vote count of 251-170. The Khanna-Gaetz amendment was offered as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and builds on the momentum from last month’s Senate vote on the Kaine-Udall amendment, which also would have also blocked the Trump administration from launching an unauthorized war with Iran.

In response to the passage of the Khanna-Gaetz amendment, NIAC Action President Jamal Abdi issued the following statement:

“The House of Representatives should be applauded for its vote today to stop an unauthorized war with Iran before it starts, and we call on the Senate to follow suit. With the passage of the amendment from Representatives Ro Khanna and Matt Gaetz, legislators moved one step closer to pulling the U.S. back from the edge of a war that the American people do not want and that Congress has never authorized. With nearly all of the 2020 presidential candidates calling for the U.S. to return to the Iran nuclear deal, and now with the House passing the Khanna-Gaetz amendment, a bipartisan consensus against the Bolton-Pompeo approach to Iran has clearly emerged.

“Such safeguards would not be necessary if the Trump administration were not recklessly endangering American security with its incoherent maximum pressure approach toward Iran. Last month, the President took us ten minutes from war, which would have been certain to trigger Iranian reprisals and a long trail of consequences not confined within Iran’s borders. Both the President and his Secretary of State have intimated that they do not need Congressional approval to launch a war, with many Members of Congress alarmed by the administration’s transparent attempts to justify a war with Iran under the 2001 authorization to use military force.

“The Iranian-American community and the broader American public know that war with Iran would be a disaster. That’s why a majority in the House and Senate now are on the record voting for provisions to rule out an unauthorized war with Iran. It is imperative that legislators ensure that the final defense authorization bill includes the Khanna-Gaetz amendment.

“We applaud Reps. Khanna and Gaetz for their leadership. Without the help of Chairmen Eliot Engel, Adam Smith and Jim McGovern as well as Reps. Anna Eshoo, Seth Moulton, Anthony Brown, Barbara Lee and countless Americans who spoke out against war with Iran, this vote would not have been possible.”

NIAC Statement on Senate Vote on Udall-Kaine Amendment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, June 28, 2019
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | mana@niacaction.org

WASHINGTON DC – Today, the Senate voted on a bipartisan amendment spearheaded by Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) that would block President Donald Trump from using funds from the defense bill to launch a war with Iran without Congressional authorization. The amendment received 50 votes in favor to just 40 opposed, but fell short of the 60 vote threshold set by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who opposed the amendment. 

In response, NIAC Action Executive Director, Jamal Abdi, issued the following statement:

“We applaud the majority of the Senate that supported today’s amendment to shut down an unauthorized war with Iran. Senators Udall and Kaine deserve particular credit for forcing a vote and convincing a majority of the Senate to go on record against a march to war with Iran. 

“The depths to which McConnell and his allies like Tom Cotton went to oppose this amendment and vote against Congress’ own Constitutional power to declare war is deeply concerning. Voters did not elect Trump king so that he could send our troops into harm’s way whenever he felt like it. Yet, the vast majority of Republicans are either so cowed by Trump or eager for war that they decided to play defense for him. Critically, if not for Mitch McConnell, there could have been a straight up and down vote that inserted this amendment into the defense authorization bill ahead of the House. 

“It is a dereliction of duty for those Senators to have looked at the past several weeks and done nothing. Trump and his deputy Bolton have routinely threatened Iran, taken major provocative steps designed to trigger Iranian reprisals, and barely stepped back from the edge of starting a major war with Iran. 

“Every single Democrat who cast a vote supported the amendment, and four Republicans – Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Susan Collins, and Jerry Moran – made clear through their votes that President Trump does not have authorization for war against Iran. The Iranian-American community, our allies, and all pro-peace and diplomacy advocates should take heart that there is a strong, bipartisan group of lawmakers determined to block an unauthorized Trump war on Iran. Yet, far more is needed.

“Critically, by securing majority support, this has now built momentum for the House of Representatives to pass its own bipartisan Khanna-Gaetz amendment to restrict Trump’s ability to start a war with Iran when Congress returns from the July 4th recess and resumes consideration of its defense authorization bill.”

NIAC Applauds NDAA Amendment Aimed at Blocking Trump’s Path to War

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, June 25, 2019  
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | mana@niacaction.org

WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, an amendment was offered to the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would block an unauthorized war against Iran. The amendment, introduced by Representatives Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), has wide support including from the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Adam Smith, the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel and the Chairman of the House Rules Committee Jim McGovern. Many other legislators – including Reps. Anna Eshoo, Andy Levin, Barbara Lee, Seth Moulton and Anthony Brown – who have been champions in the effort to ensure Trump doesn’t lead us into an unauthorized war are already signed on as original cosponsors of the amendment.

In response to the amendment’s introduction, NIAC President Jamal Abdi issued the following statement:  

“Congress may be all that is standing between Donald Trump and war with Iran. It is crucial that lawmakers summon the wherewithal to act as a co-equal branch of government to stand up against a disastrous war with Iran. 

“The Khanna-Gaetz amendment is a strong response to the growing risks of war with Iran that stem directly from President Trump’s disastrous maximum pressure approach. 

“After nearly two decades of endless war, the American people do not want another reckless war of choice with Iran. Congress must ensure that the defense authorization rules out war with Iran by passing the Khanna-Gaetz amendment in the House, the Udall-Kaine amendment in the Senate and protecting the provisions from pro-war legislators.

“Recent events have only underscored the importance of ruling out an unauthorized war with Iran. Our thin-skinned President lashed out on Twitter this morning in response to a mistranslation of an Iranian statement, and maintains that he does not need Congressional authorization to start a war. Other Members of Congress – including Mitch McConnell and Tom Cotton  – have shamefully played defense for Trump’s reckless actions in an attempt to keep the path to war with Iran open.”

NIAC Action Joins Coalition to Call for AUMF Repeal

Washington, D.C. — NIAC Action joined a coalition of organizations to call for repeal of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) in response to recent reports stating that Trump officials were considering using the authorization to greenlight a war with Iran.

In a letter sent today, 42 organizations called on leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to pass legislation (H.R. 1274) from Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) to repeal the 2001 AUMF, which was used by the George W. Bush administration to invade Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks. 

The 2001 authorization is still alive more than 17 years later and has proven tremendously broad. As noted in the organizational letter, the 2001 authorization “has been used by the Executive Branch as authority for 41 operations in 19 countries.” Moreover, Trump administration officials have taken pains to fabricate links between Iran and al-Qaeda while suggesting that the 2001 authorization could be exploited as Congressional authorization for military strikes against Iran. While such arguments are highly dubious, the fact that they are being discussed highlights the importance of repealing the 2001 authorization before it can be further abused.

In the weeks ahead, NIAC Action will be rolling out new efforts to impose political and legal restraints on the administration’s ability to start an unconstitutional and disastrous war with Iran. Please see the letter below:

 

March 13, 2019

Dear Chairman Engel and Ranking Member McCaul:

We, the undersigned, are a diverse group of organizations with a range of missions and perspectives from across the ideological spectrum. We share a common view that the Executive Branch has expanded its interpretation of the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) (PL 107-40) far beyond Congress’s original intent, in order to justify an ever-increasing number of military operations around the world. We therefore write to express our support for H.R.1274, which would repeal the 2001 AUMF eight months after enactment, and to ask that the Foreign Affairs Committee bring the bill up for prompt consideration.

The Framers of the Constitution, recognizing the Executive Branch’s inclination to war, wisely and deliberately assigned to Congress the power to decide whether, when, and where the United States goes to war. As James Madison wrote, “The constitution supposes, what the History of all governments demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it. It has, accordingly, with studied care, vested the question of war in the Legislature.”

Three days after the 9/11 attacks, Congress passed the 2001 AUMF to authorize military force against the groups responsible for those attacks and those who harbored them. Now, after more than 17 years, three successive administrations have cited the 2001 AUMF as authority for the United States to use lethal force around the world against a growing number of groups, including some that did not exist in 2001. According to a 2018 Congressional Research Service report, the 2001 AUMF has been used by the Executive Branch as authority for 41 operations in 19 countries. This expansive and legally dubious use of the 2001 AUMF has come at the expense of a thorough examination of a security challenge that does not have a solely military solution.

This sustained use of military force is the longest in U.S. history, having lasted longer that the Civil War, World War I, and World War II combined. The U.S. military is now conducting operations in 80 countries around the world.3 The post/9-11 wars have cost more than $5.9 trillion4 and resulted in the deaths of approximately 500,000 people, including nearly 15,000 U.S. military personnel and contractors, and 250,000 civilians.

Yet Congress has never debated and voted on the uses of force, outside of Afghanistan, that the Executive Branch claims are authorized by the 2001 AUMF. The vast majority of members of Congress were not in office when this authorization was passed. Of the 435 current members of the House, only 67 of them (15.4 percent) voted for the 2001 AUMF, and only 35 sitting Senators voted for it. Indeed, more than 80 percent of current members of Congress have never voted on this authority.

The Founders vested in Congress the authority to make the hard decision about whether, when, and where to go to war as the branch most accountable to the people of the United States. Congress should repeal the 2001 AUMF and hold a public debate as to whether endless war actually serves the American people. It should not sit idly by while the Executive Branch continues to expand the use of lethal force around the world at immense cost to U.S. national security, the lives of civilians and U.S. service members around the world, and our national treasure.

H.R. 1274 would sunset the 2001 AUMF after eight months, leaving Congress plenty of time to debate and vote on whether to authorize continued participation in any current conflict. Congress has a constitutional duty to determine and vote on when the United States goes to war. We urge you to consider and pass H.R. 1274 in the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. Sincerely,

About Face: Veterans Against the War
Action Corps
Action Corps NYC
American Civil Liberties Union
American Friends Service Committee
Amnesty International USA
Antiwar.com
Center for International Policy
Chicago Area Peace Action
Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy
CODE PINK
Common Defense
Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, US Provinces
Council for a Livable World
Council on American-Islamic Relations
CREDO Action
Defending Rights & Dissent
Demand Progress
FreedomWorks
Foreign Policy for America
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Human Rights First
Indivisible
Institute for Policy Studies, National Priorities Project
Institute for Policy Studies, New Internationalism Project
Just Foreign Policy
Justice for Muslims Collective
NIAC Action
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
Peace Action
Peace Action New York State
Peace Corps Iran Association Board of Directors
Ploughshares Fund
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Project on Government Oversight
South East Asian Faith Initiatives
The United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
VoteVets
Win Without War
Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND)
Yemen Peace Project

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…

How Can We Stop Pompeo from Killing the Iran Deal?

With the appointment of John Bolton and the nomination of Mike Pompeo – a war hawk who has pledged to kill the Iran deal – Donald Trump appears ready to tear up the Iran deal on May 12 and prepare for war. But the Senate has the power to defeat Pompeo’s nomination – and halt Bolton and Trump’s push for war.

Trump is Building Iran War Cabinet

  • Trump’s new National Security Advisor, John Bolton, has long called for the U.S. to bomb Iran. And Pompeo, Trump’s pick to lead State, is a top opponent of the Iran deal who says bombing Iran can be done easily.
  • Bolton has been paid $20,000 to speak at events in support of the MEK, a cult-like Iranian-exile organization promoting violent regime change.
  • Pompeo’s last tweet prior to being nominated for CIA Director stated, “I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.”
  • As CIA Director, Pompeo urged Trump to tear up the deal but was blocked by Rex Tillerson – who Pompeo would replace as Secretary of State.

Who is Mike Pompeo and Why is He Dangerous?

  • Pompeo is a Tea Party Republican who rose to prominence in the House as a hawkish opponent of diplomacy with Iran.
  • Pompeo worked with Senator Tom Cotton to try to undermine the nuclear talks and accused Barack Obama of breaking the law and hiding a “secret side deal” with Iran that invalidated the nuclear agreement.
  • Pompeo argued for bombing Iran during the nuclear talks saying “it is under 2,000 sorties to destroy the Iranian nuclear capacity. This is not an insurmountable task for the coalition forces.”
  • As CIA Director – despite 10 separate IAEA reports confirming Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal – Pompeo continued his political assault against the deal and lobbied Trump to exit the deal.

What Can We do to Stop Pompeo?

  • We must convince a majority of Senators to vote against Pompeo in order to defeat his nomination.
  • The Senate has 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats – but Republican Rand Paul (R-KY) has already announced his opposition and John McCain (R-AZ) is unlikely to cast a vote.
  • That means if we convince all Democrats to oppose Pompeo, we likely win by a 50-49 vote. But we should also be working to bring moderate Republicans on board in case we lose some Democrats.
  • Unlike the war in Iraq, a future war with Iran will likely never receive a vote. A vote to confirm Pompeo is a vote for a war with Iran.

Stop Netanyahu From Killing The Iran Deal!

 

Trump and Netanyahu are working together to try to kill the Iran nuclear deal and set the stage for war with Iran.

So far, Congress has refused to go along with Trump’s efforts to “tear up” the deal. But if your lawmakers don’t hear from you, that could soon change. Tomorrow, AIPAC – the pro-Israel lobbying group that has acted in lockstep with Netanyahu – will send over 10,000 of its supporters to Capitol Hill to lobby Congress in support of Trump’s Iran policy. They want Congress to give Trump new sanctions authorities and political cover for a reckless approach towards Iran.

Send your members of Congress a message today, before they hear from AIPAC, to protect the Iran deal and stand up to Trump and Netanyahu’s reckless approach to Iran!


DONATE to help us save the Iran Deal and keep diplomacy alive!

Help us mobilize the Iranian-American community and American public to save the Iran Deal! Donate today >>

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.