Washington, DC – The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) deplores the House of Representatives’ passage of H.R.850, a broad new Iran sanctions bill.
“This does not send a message of good cop President and bad cop Congress, it projects an image of the bad cop running amok and the good cop having lost control,” said NIAC President Trita Parsi. “This does not add leverage to the U.S. at the negotiating table, rather, it undermines negotiations.”
Last month, the Iranian people defied the odds by electing Hassan Rouhani as their next President. Rouhani campaigned on “peace and reconciliation with the West” and improving Iran’s human rights situation, raising hopes for diplomatic progress.
“The Iranian people sent a clear message in recent elections that they support moderation over radicalism, but that message has fallen on deaf ears among House leadership,” said Jamal Abdi, NIAC Policy Director. “By forcing this vote before the U.S. has an opportunity to engage with Iran’s incoming government, the House risks squandering a major opportunity and only makes a nuclear deal more difficult to achieve.”
Many in Washington responded positively to the Iranian election. Last week, an unprecedented 131 House members signed a bipartisan letter led by Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) and Rep. David Price (D-NC) urging President Obama to reinvigorate diplomacy with Iran, while indicating that the President should put sanctions relief on the table in exchange for Iranian concessions on its nuclear program. 29 former policymakers, diplomats, military officials and experts called on President Obama to “reinvigorate diplomatic efforts” to resolve the nuclear standoff, including through “new bilateral and multilateral negotiations.
Unlike past sanctions bills, H.R.850 encountered stiff opposition from Members of Congress, former policymakers and experts. Sixteen Representatives signed a letter to House leadership raising their concerns with the timing of the vote and content of the bill, urging the bill be modified and delayed until new negotiations proceed.
“The support for new diplomacy with Iran within Congress is clear, even among many who ultimately voted for these new misguided sanctions,” said Parsi. “But as we saw with Iraq, sanctions are often the pathway to war and Congressional leadership must change course soon in order for diplomacy to succeed.”
“This bill has has not been adopted into law, it must pass the Senate first and there’s no companion there yet,” said Abdi. “There’s a strong likelihood negotiations will proceed between the U.S. and Iran before that happens, but the House vote was nevertheless the wrong signal to send.”