January 27, 2010

NIAC Weighs in on Senate Sanctions Bill

Washington, DC – With the Senate expected to approve comprehensive Iran legislation, S.2799, in the coming weeks, NIAC has released a guide offering suggested changes to the legislation that would bring the bill more in line with the Obama Administration’s strategy.

S.2799 is intended to enhance the President’s options regarding Iran, providing him new tools to accomplish US policy aims.  However, senior Administration officials have expressed serious concerns with the bill in the media and in a letter to Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has stated a preference for targeted sanctions aimed at “those who actually make the decisions” and do not “contribute to the suffering of the ordinary Iranians, who deserve better than what they currently are receiving”.  The Administration is now involved in negotiations with Senate leaders to resolve these issues.

  • Read Administration announcement that it will eliminate barriers to Iranian Internet freedom


NIAC supports the Administration’s position and believes that effective Iran legislation should increase US smart power and enhance the President’s options with Iran while reducing burdens on average Iranians.  As written, S.2799 would limit the President’s options and punish the Iranian people.

Most of the sanctions proposed in S.2799 were conceived well before the Iranian election crisis eight months ago.  While the Administration has adjusted its strategy as the Iranian opposition has evolved into a full-fledged movement for civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, S.2799 contains harmful, outdated policies.  NIAC is advising that the Senate coordinate with the Administration to ensure this legislation reflects a successful strategy attuned to the current situation on the ground.

For instance, the Administration recently announced it is rewriting US export regulations to end unintentional restrictions on Iranian Internet freedom.  But while S.2799 includes exceptions allowing outdated tools like phonographs, telegraphs, and cassette tapes to go to Iranians, it fails to update the list to include Internet communication software.  This means that, even as Iranians are using cell phone apps to organize protests and broadcast videos in to the outside world, and as the Administration works to rewrite regulations to promote rather than restrict Internet freedom, S. 2799 holds in place harmful policies blocking Iranians’ access to communication tools. 

Therefore, one of NIAC’s recommendations would be to include communication software under “informational material” exception and to end the restrictions on Iranian Internet freedom in conjunction with the Administration’s efforts.  Other recommendations include eliminating restrictions on humanitarian organizations working in Iran, removing burdensome licensing requirements for civilian aircraft parts, and mandating a report on US sanctions and their effect on the Iranian people.

NIAC’s policy team has communicated these and other recommendations to Senate leaders and is in ongoing discussions with Senators and Senate staff.  Though NIAC remains opposed to unilateral, untargeted Congressional sanctions, we believe these changes will bring the bill more in line with the Obama administration’s goals for an effective Iran strategy. 




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