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March 10, 2009

“Iran Threat Reduction Act” gaining Republican support in House

cross posted from NIACouncil.org
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Late last month, the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, introduced H.R. 1208, the “Iran Threat Reduction Act of 2009.”  The bill now has 48 cosponsors–all Republicans.
Rep. Ros-Lehtinen has also introduced three other resolutions focused on Iran in the three months since the beginning of the 111th Congress: H.Con.Res. 16, H.R. 485, and H.R. 364.  Two of these deal specifically with the nuclear issue, while the other, H.Con.Res. 16, “recognizes the threat of spreading radical Islamist terrorism and Iranian adventurism in Africa.”
According to a letter from the office of Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, the Iran Threat Reduction Act “requires U.S. sanctions against Iran to remain in place until the President certifies that they have verifiably dismantled all their weapons of mass destruction programs.”  Current sanctions that would be affected by this measure focus on Iran’s energy sector as well as US export controls and a ban on most imported goods from Iran.
Additionally, the bill would require managers of federal and private pension plans, thrift savings plans and mutual funds “to divest all investments of such plans from Iran’s energy infrastructure.”  Congress has previously wrestled with the issue of Iran divestment, which many trade groups say would violate the Constitution.
Finally, it would “prohibitbilateral U.S. nuclear cooperation agreements with countries assisting Iran’s nuclear or missile or advanced conventional weapons programs.”  This provision is largely directed toward Russia, with whom President Bush signed a 123 Agreement last year, but which requires Congressional ratification.
The Act is being seen by many as an attempt to make good on Ros-Lehtinen’s promises to beef up Iran sanctions in the current session, but Democrats have been hesitant to support such an aggressive move before President Obama unveils his new strategy for engaging Iran.
At the close of the legislative session last Fall, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen lamented Congress’ inability to pass tougher sanctions, saying the provisions that did pass the House “fall far short of the type of comprehensive sanctions that would truly cripple the Iranian economy, which is dependent on investments in its energy sector.”
The bill has been referred to a number of committees, including the Committee on Foreign Affairs, where it awaits action.

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