December 15, 2011

House takes aim at Iran humanitarian waiver

The House of Representatives yesterday voted to strip the President’s ability to allow repairs or parts for Iran’s civilian aircraft.
Currently, U.S. sanctions prevent Iran from buying new civilian aircraft or purchasing spare parts for their aging fleet.  They also prevent repairs and even block U.S. companies from conducting crash investigations to prevent future accidents. However, through the humanitarian waver, the President has the power to license these activities on a case-by-case basis.
This bill eliminates that waiver.
According to the International Civil Aviation Organization, “United States sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran have adversely affected the safety of civil aviation. The findings of ICAO should be upsetting to anyone, who is committed to the safety of civil aviation and the safety of air transport.”
Iranian Aviation Accidents since 2002

Date Airline Aircraft Location Fatalities
12-Feb-02 Iran Air Tours Flight 956 Tupolev Tu-154 Khorramabad 118
23-Dec-02 AZAL Antonov An-140 Isfahan 46
19-Feb-03 IRGC Ilyushin Il-76 Kerman 289
10-Feb-04 Kish Air Fokker-50 Sharjah, UAE 43
20-Apr-05 Saha Air Lines Boeing 707-300 Tehran 3
6-Dec-05 Iranian Air Force C-130E Hercules Tehran 108
9-Jan-06 IRGC Falcon Near Orumieh 11
1-Sep-06 Iran Air Tours Tupolev Tu-154M Mashad 29
27-Nov-06 Iranian Military Antonov An-74 Tehran 36
23-Jul-07 Iranian Military Mashad 0
2-Jan-08 Iran Air Fokker 100 Tehran 0
Aug. 24, 2008 Iran Aseman Airlines Boeing 737-219 Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan 68
15-Feb-09 Hesa Iran-140 Shahin Shahr-Hesa Air Base 5
15-Jul-09 Caspian Airlines Tupolev Tu-154M Outside Qazvin 168
24-Jul-09 Aria Air Flight 1525 Ilyushin IL-62M Masahd 16
9-Jan-11 Iran Air Flight 277 Boeing 727 Orumieh 77

Ironically, the State Department just last week launched a “virtual embassy” that includes as one of its goals, “to encourage travel to the United States.”  While that is a laudable effort, when taken in conjunction with Congressional efforts to make air travel more deadly for Iranians, any direct goodwill the Administration tries to create with Iran’s people is being undermined by the severity of indiscriminate sanctions that increasingly look like collective punishment.  In fact, the author of the aircraft provision, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), has said as much–saying the sanction will only work if they punish ordinary Iranians.
That is not to say that there is not an onus on the Iranian government to rectify this situation.  However, unaccountable Iranian officials prefer to play the victim card and blame the U.S. instead of protect their population from danger.  This just displays yet again how ordinary people in Iran are being squeezed in the conflict between Washington and Tehran; trapped between a repressive, undemocratic government on one side, and an oppressive Western sanctions regime on the other.
Within our current political climate, it is crucial to distinguish between policy that places pressure on the Iranian government and sanctions that are in reality directed towards ordinary people. Removing the humanitarian waiver belies any claims by policymakers that the sanctions proposed are only meant to target the Iranian government, not the people.
The message sent by eliminating this humanitarian waver is direct and will be interpreted as an explicit means to impede the lives of regular individuals.
If the bill is approved–it now rests with the Senate–it will not only lead to more deaths through the adverse effects on the safety of aviation, but will suffocate the mobility of millions, while increasing resentment towards U.S. policy.

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