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July 2, 2008

Some Allies Disappoint on H.Con.Res. 362

Yesterday I posted a blog entry praising Rep. Waxman’s (D-CA-30) constituency for making the Congressman aware of their views on the current Iran situation. In an interview, the Congressman seemed to have a good grip on the thoughts of his constituency. His recent actions, however, make me question whether or not the opinions of his Iranian American constituents actually play a role in his cognition.

Rep. Waxman recently became a co-sponsor (one of about 220) of H.Con.Res. 362, made infamous for its ‘demand’ of the President to, in not so many words, create a naval blockade in the Persian Gulf. In a meeting yesterday between NIAC’s Assistant Legislative Director Patrick Disney and Rep. Waxman’s Senior Legislative Associate, it was revealed to us that the Congressman intends to remain a cosponsor of the bill. Apparently, Rep. Waxman and other cosponsors – including Reps. Ackerman and Pence who introduced the bill – don’t see it as an act of war.

Waxman’s LA echoed Ackerman and Pence’s ‘Dear Colleague’ letter, re-affirming their belief that the bill does not call for a blockade of Iran. They point to a caveat in the bill that states ‘Whereas nothing in this resolution shall be construed as an authorization of the use of force against Iran.’ It’s likely that the US’s ‘prohibiting the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products’ would be seen by the Iranians at the very least as an illegal act of aggression, most likely an act of war. This is because enforcing the prohibition of petroleum shipments to Iran would require imposing a naval blockade.

Other troubling elements of the bill include ‘imposing stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran’ (note to the small number of tourists and ex-pats that travel to Iran regularly: this includes you). This plan targets ordinary Iranian people more than the Iranian government, and will empower the hardline elements of the regime. The US would lose the hearts and minds of the Iranian people, one of our greatest strategic assets and a bulwark against anti-Americanism in the region.

Furthermore, ‘prohibiting the international movement of all Iranian officials not involved in negotiating the suspension of Iran’s nuclear program’ is completely illegal, as the bill provides for no exceptions, including diplomats not on the nuclear negotiating team.

This is quite disappointing, to say the least. Rep. Waxman is an ally of the Iranian American community, but it seems like – certainly on this one – he has fallen prey to the influence of the war-hawks.

The Congressman’s staffer hinted that Rep. Waxman might be making a floor speech clarifying his beliefs about the bill in the near future.

The mark-up session for the bill is scheduled for next week. Changes to the language and/or content are possible either before or during the mark-up.  Time will tell the outcome. What is certain is that the story of H.Con.Res. 362 is not over yet.

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