Memo: NIAC Action Opposes Iran-Related Amendments to Financial Services Bill
NIAC Action opposes five Iran-related amendments to H.R. 5485 (the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, 2017). The bill was set for consideration on the House floor June 22, but a sit-in from Democrats demanding gun legislation delayed consideration until after the July 4 holiday. The Iran-related amendments would violate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action by blocking the provision of sanctions relief to Iran expressly permitted under the accord and would further complicate efforts to improve relations between the U.S. and Iranian people.
These amendments would directly violate the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action by prohibiting the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control from licensing the sale of commercial aircraft to Iran as well as the financing of such transactions by U.S. financial institutions. These measures would not only directly violate the nuclear agreement, they would:
- Block a major U.S. economic opportunity in the pending Boeing sale of civilian aircraft to Iran worth tens of billions of dollars;
- Block a pending Airbus sale of civilian aircraft to Iran; and
- Impose humanitarian suffering on the Iranian people by denying them access to safe air travel.
Iran has one of the worst civilian airline safety records in the world, with nearly one thousand deaths in the last decade. Prior to the nuclear agreement, U.S. sanctions prevented Iran from purchasing and repairing its aging aircraft fleet. The lifting of sanctions on the sale of commercial aircraft to Iran under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is a welcome development solely on humanitarian grounds.
While those working to block the sale of civilian aircraft claim that their aim is to block Iran from transferring arms, a USA Today editorial
points out that Iran does not need “expensive, fuel-efficient, state-of-the art civilian aircraft to ferry arms,” and also argues that “intertwining Iran’s economy with the economies of Europe and America might be one of the best approaches for attempting to coax [Iran] out of its belligerent ways.”
Punishing U.S. companies, antagonizing American allies, and endangering the lives of ordinary Iranians in the name of violating the nuclear deal is extraordinarily irresponsible and damaging to American interests.
Oppose Lance Amendment 37 (#3):
This amendment would effectively prohibit the Obama administration from modifying any of the regulations dealing with the transfer of funds to or from Iran in support of transactions that are licensed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
Passage of this amendment would unjustifiably enact further barriers to U.S. person engagement in activities that the U.S. government has determined serve important U.S. foreign policy interests. Furthermore, it would decrease the level of oversight and transparency the U.S. government has over funds transfers to or from Iran.
Under current regulations, U.S. persons are permitted to transfer funds to or from Iran through non-U.S., non-Iranian financial institutions in support of licensed activities. Because foreign banks have proven reluctant to re-engage their Iranian counterparts, however, finding a non-U.S., non-Iranian financial institution willing to transfer funds to or from Iran on behalf of U.S. persons is a challenging proposition. This amendment would effectively deny the United States any flexibility in resolving this issue by prohibiting the President from modifying current regulations regarding the transfer of funds to or from Iran in support of licensed activities.
This amendment would effectively prohibit the Obama administration from entering into claims-settlement negotiations with Iran. Currently, the U.S. and Iran have several outstanding claims against each other that can only be satisfactorily resolved via bilateral negotiations. By prohibiting the Obama administration from using funds appropriated under this bill for such claims-settlement purposes, Congress would render such negotiations impossible in a manner that could prove injurious to U.S. interests, particularly if the U.S. can receive a more favorable outcome via bilateral negotiations with Iran than through the judgments of a foreign tribunal or court.
This amendment would effectively nullify the President’s current waiver authorities under § 104 of the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (“CISADA”) by prohibiting funds from being used to modify certain regulations. Moreover, this amendment would remove Iran’s incentive to exact a change in the behaviors that led to implementation of these sanctions prohibitions, as the President would be unable to respond positively to any behavioral changes by Iran. Insofar as the purpose of U.S. sanctions is to cause a change in behavior in the sanctions target, this amendment is anathema to the underlying purpose of U.S. sanctions imposed on Iran.