One of the first actions that House lawmaker Alcee Hastings (D-FL) decided to take in the Trump-era is to authorize the new President to bomb Iran. Hastings, who along with his colleagues in the 115th Congress was just sworn in earlier this week, was one of a small minority of House Democrats who voted against the Iran nuclear deal in 2015. His legislation, which he first introduced last year and has now reintroduced in the new Congress, would preemptively give the President formal authority to utilize military force against Iran. While the legislation is unlikely to attract significant support, Hastings’ effort is the first of what is expected to be a tsunami of hawkish Iran legislation as the new Congress gets underway.
Another bill introduced in the opening week of Congress, from Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), would impose sanctions on Iran over the country’s ballistic missile program and could receive significant support. Some argue that the U.S. has unlimited ability to impose sanctions on Iran provided they are for non-nuclear purposes. However, the nuclear deal itself obligates the U.S. to prevent the re-imposition of sanctions lifted under the accord for a separate justification. Further, additional obligations prevent the U.S. from taking actions intended to disrupt the normalization of permissible economic activity with Iran and to take proactive steps to ensure Iran’s access in areas such as finance. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) introduced a ballistic missile sanction bill last year that would clearly violate U.S. obligations under the nuclear deal. Heller signed onto that bill last month, after Ayotte lost her re-election bid. If Heller’s own bill is anything like Ayotte’s, it is likely to be a deal killer.
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