12 Organizations Write Congress on Potential Iran Sanctions Act Debate


Contact: Jamal Abdi
Phone: 202-386-6408
Email: jamal@niacaction.org

Washington, DC – A dozen national organizations that have supported the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) delivered a letter to Congress today outlining key considerations for any potential debate over legislation to extend the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 (ISA), which is set to expire at the end of the year. 
The battle over extending ISA may be exploited by opponents of the JCPOA, who have been stymied in their attempts to pass deal-killing measures over the past year. The letter urges Congress to only consider renewing ISA as a clean reauthorization. As the administration will retain full authority to snap back sanctions with or without the extension of ISA, the letter states that ISA should be allowed to expire in lieu of passing legislation that could unravel the JCPOA. Finally, it urges Congress to reaffirm that the U.S. is fully committed to uphold its sanctions relief obligations and that lawmakers should defend and support further action to ensure that relief under the JCPOA moves forward. 
The full text of the letter, including a list of signers, is available below.

View in PDF.
September 16, 2016
To: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader Harry Reid, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi
CC: Members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives
We, the undersigned organizations, write to urge the 114th Congress to continue to maintain the United States’ commitment to upholding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which has succeeded in blocking Iran’s potential pathways to a nuclear weapon while averting a disastrous war. We understand that Congress may soon focus its attention on a potential renewal of the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 (ISA), which is set to expire on December 31, 2016. In deciding whether and how to extend this legislation, we urge Congress to observe several important considerations.
First, Congress should only consider renewing ISA as a clean reauthorization. Many, but not all, of the legislative proposals to extend ISA introduced thus far include poison-pill provisions and measures that would seek to re-impose sanctions lifted under the JCPOA, albeit under a different justification. Shifting the goalposts midway through implementation would be viewed as an outright violation by our international partners in the P5+1 and by Iran, and must be rejected.
Second, it is important to note that the administration will retain full authority to snap back sanctions in order to respond to a potential Iranian breach of the accord with or without the extension of ISA under the authorities established by the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). While some have asserted that ISA should be extended in order to ensure snapback authorities, the President retains virtually unlimited authority to impose or re-impose sanctions under IEEPA, rendering an extension of ISA largely duplicative of existing authorities. Therefore, if opponents of the JCPOA are unwilling to allow for a clean renewal of ISA, it should be allowed to expire rather than moving forward with legislation that could unravel the JCPOA and free Iran from its nuclear constraints under the accord.
Third, if ISA is extended beyond the date of the JCPOA’s “Transition Day,” Congress should reaffirm that the U.S. is fully committed to upholding its commitments to terminate nuclear-related sanctions on that date so long as Iran upholds its own obligations. The latest potential date for “Transition Day” under the JCPOA is October 18, 2023. Many of the current proposals to renew ISA go well beyond that time frame, departing from past ISA renewals that have extended the authorization by just five years. An act of Congress will therefore be necessary to terminate nuclear-related sanctions, including ISA sanctions, and Congress should make clear that this remains its intent. Further, lawmakers who support the JCPOA must also defend and push for further action by the U.S. government to ensure that businesses receive due assurance that they will not face U.S. legal repercussions for engaging in transactions allowable under the JCPOA.
There have been numerous efforts to undermine confidence in the JCPOA, both from Congressional opponents of the JCPOA and hardliners in Iran.  Any consideration of an ISA extension must not become an opportunity for opponents of the JCPOA on either side to re-litigate or renege on the accord. We urge you to take these important considerations into account to preserve the important national security achievements of the JCPOA. We will be monitoring this debate closely as it moves forward and look forward to working with you.

Americans for Peace Now
Council for a Livable World
Friends Committee on National Legislation
J Street
Just Foreign Policy
NIAC Action
Peace Action
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society
Women’s Action for New Directions
Win Without War


VISA Act Imposes Obstacles Against Iranian Americans


Press Release - For Immediate Release




Washington, DC – NIAC Action released the following statement:

“NIAC Action opposes H.R.5203, the Visa Integrity and Security Act (“VISA Act”) as currently drafted and urges Members of Congress to oppose the current form of the legislation, which will be considered for markup by the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, May 25. As the country’s largest Iranian-American grassroots organization, we are deeply concerned that this bill will pose numerous unnecessary obstacles for Iranian Americans seeking to reunite with family, for future Iranian visa applicants seeking to study or participate in exchanges in the U.S., and for opportunities to build important bridges between the American and the Iranian people. 
“We are concerned that, under the VISA Act, Congress would codify a list of countries from which visa applicants would be subject to a Security Advisory Opinion (SAO), providing no mechanism to lift or otherwise modify the requirement. This approach is redundant – Iran, for instance, is listed in the legislation despite Iranian visa applicants already being subject to SAO requirements because of Iran’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism; but it would also tie the hands of any Administration from lifting or amending this requirement as situations change. The requirement therefore risks creating arbitrary legislative hurdles to the visa process independent of any tangible security threat. 
“The bill also imposes draconian hurdles and delays against immigrant visa seekers and their American family members. If an American petitions for a visa for their family member, the VISA Act would force them to undergo DNA testing to prove their relationship. While we understand the desire to protect against fraud, the DNA requirement would provide negligible security benefits and impose immensely onerous and invasive requirements on Americans navigating an already arduous process. This process raises concerns about privacy and questions regarding the protection of privacy for American citizens who are forced to provide DNA testing to the government in order to petition on behalf of family members. Additionally, in the case of Iranian Americans, the lack of formal diplomatic relations and banking channels between the U.S. and Iran would pose formidable obstacles to any future Iranian visa applicants who would be required to undergo DNA testing with the law’s passage.
“Finally, the bill would make it significantly more difficult for foreign nationals to come to the U.S. by increasing ‘burden of proof’ requirements. This could make it especially difficult for student exchanges in which young Iranians study at American universities because of new difficulties in providing documentation to demonstrate they will not overstay their student visa. The U.S. and Iran have a long history of fruitful educational exchange and many Iranian students have made important contributions at U.S. universities. Even as the U.S. has serious differences with Iran’s government, educational exchanges provide a meaningful path to build and sustain positive relations with the people of Iran. While the number of Iranian students in the United States has declined from its height of more than 50,000 prior to the Iranian Revolution, the number of students has rebounded from a low of less than 1,700 in 1998-1999 to more than 10,000 in 2013-2014. Raising the burden of proof through the VISA Act could reverse the rebound in educational exchanges and undermine the benefits that such educational exchanges provide for the U.S. and the Iranian people.
“The Iranian-American community is already deeply troubled by recently enacted legislation – H.R. 158, which was passed into law as part of the FY2016 Consolidated Appropriations Act – that restricts individuals from the Visa Waiver Program if they are considered dual nationals of certain countries, including Iran. The pervasive view among Iranian Americans is that this legislation discriminates against individuals on the basis of their national origin or family heritage. It has fostered a perception among Iranian Americans and other targeted communities that Congress is enacting the bigoted rhetoric of presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump into law. Rather than move forward with further legislation that targets our community and fosters further perceptions of discrimination, we encourage Congress to repeal the discriminatory elements of H.R.158 and to resolve the other significant problems with H.R.5203.”