July 24, 2013

Legislative Update, July 24, 2013: Concerning Legislation Underway in Congress

Washington, DC – Four bills are currently under consideration in Congress – and one is set to be voted on in the House – which seek to increase pressure on Iran through a variety of means. If these bills are enacted, the measures they implement will be harmful to ordinary Iranians as well as to U.S. interests.

In addition to several negative features of each bill in particular, which are outlined in more detail below, imposing additional sanctions on Iran or passing otherwise provocative measures at this time is a poor idea in general. For one thing, it would send precisely the wrong message to Iranian citizens, punishing them after electing the most moderate of the candidates running in their recent presidential election. Furthermore, passing confrontational measures before president-elect Hassan Rouhani – who has pledged to pursue “constructive interaction with the outside world” – even has a chance to enter into office threatens to squander an important potential opportunity for diplomacy, which is particularly unfortunate considering such opportunities have been few and far between.

However, as Congress considers additional punitive measures, last week Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) and Rep. David Price (D-NC) sent an unprecedented, bipartisan letter to President Obama, signed by 131 representatives, urging him to take advantage of the potential opportunity of Rouhani’s election by reinvigorating diplomacy.  Further, the letter recommends avoiding provocative actions that could undermine Rouhani in relation to hardliners and to ease sanctions in exchange for Iranian nuclear concessions. The letter is by far the loudest call for diplomacy to ever come from Congress.

Further, as CQ‘s Emily Cadei reports, Congress usually has a sanctions bill ready for the President by the summer.  While the House still could pass H.R.850 in August, many believe that a comprehensive Senate bill will not be ready until the fall.  Thus, it could be until the end of the year or later before the President considers new Congressional sanctions. 

1) Nuclear Iran Prevention Act (H.R. 850)

Led by Representatives Ed Royce (CA) and Eliot Engel (NY).

View the full text and cosponsors. 

Why NIAC Opposes: 

  • Adds hurdles to negotiations by limiting the President’s authority to lift sanctions & waivers in return for Iranian concessions
  • Imposes oil and commercial embargoes that could break up international coalition against Iran by directly targeting U.S. allies for their ongoing trade with Iran
  • Expands medicine shortages inside of Iran by failing to exempt food, medicine, and other licensed trade from the criteria used to determine which countries qualify for sanctions waivers
  • Disproportionately hurts ordinary Iranians and thereby empowers hardliners in Iran’s government who are advancing anti-West and anti-U.S. narratives


This bill was passed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee and has over 350 cosponsors. A final vote could take place the last week of July 2013, before Rouhani even enters office.  

Further Analysis of this Bill:  NIAC: LobeLogHuffington PostFriends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL): Huffington PostPolitixNew York Times Editorial BoardWashington Post Congressional Quarterly (paid subscription required)Americans for Peace NowCenter for Arms Control and Non-ProliferationRoll CallReuters 

2) Iran Loophole Elimination Act (S. 892)

Led by Senators Mark Kirk (IL) and Joe Manchin (WV).

View the full text and cosponsors.  

Why NIAC Opposes:

  • Further restricts Iranian patients’ access to life-saving medicines by blocking Iran from accessing its foreign currency reserves in Euros, having a particularly significant impact on Iranians’ access to patented medicines produced only in Western countries that Iran and its remaining trading partners cannot produce


This bill was assigned to a congressional committee on May 8, 2013, which will consider it before possibly sending it on to the House or Senate as a whole.

Further Analysis of this Bill:  New York Times

3) Iran Export Embargo Act (S. 1001)

Led by Senators John Cornyn (TX) and Mark Kirk (IL).

View the full text and cosponsors.

Why NIAC Opposes:

  • Makes lifting sanctions nearly impossible by removing all waivers and failing to provide sunset criteria, thereby elminating the incentive for Iran to continue negotiating with the international community and pushing the U.S. and Iran further down the path toward war
  • Removes the existing “Cooperating Country Waiver,” thereby risking angering U.S. allies and fracturing international coalition against Iran
  • Eliminates the President’s ability to waive sanctions if doing so is in the best interest of the national security, or based on considerations of the global petroleum price and supply
  • Makes humanitarian trade with Iran impossible by blocking all property that might be of interest to the Iranian government, without including humanitarian exemptions, and by prohibiting transactions with Iran’s Ministry of Health & Medical Education


This bill was assigned to a congressional committee on May 21, 2013, which will consider it before possibly sending it on to the House or Senate as a whole. The bill currently has 19 cosponsors, all Republican.

Further Analysis of this Bill:  

NIAC Policy Memo: The Iran Export Embargo Act

4) Iran Regime Change Act (Draft Bill)

Led by Senator Mark Kirk (IL).

View leaked bill summary obtained by the FCNL.

Why NIAC Opposes:

  • Expands sanctions against Iran’s financial sector, making it more difficult for Iranians to access food, medicine, and other humanitarian goods
  • Repeats the mistakes of the Iraq Liberation Act by calling for regime change, which would derail ongoing diplomatic negotiations that represent the best chance to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon, avoid war, and seriously address human rights issues in Iran
  • Strengthens hardliners in the Iranian government by confirming their suspicions that U.S.-led economic pressure is not part of a diplomatic effort to convince Iran to curb its nuclear program, but rather an attempt to overthrow the Islamic Republic itself


This bill is currently being drafted and has yet to be introduced.

Further Analysis of this Bill:National Iranian American Council: The Huffington PostFCNL: The Huffington Post Blog and quoted in a Huffington Post articleBloomberg Colin H. Kahl and Alireza Nader in Al Monitor

5) Iran Sanctions Implementation Act (S. 965)

Led by Senator Jim Inhofe (OK).

View the full text and cosponsors.

Why NIAC Opposes:

  • Attempts to use sanctions as a politically popular cover for expanding U.S. oil drilling, while containing a number of falsities regarding Iran’s nuclear program, such as the assertion that Iran has a nuclear weapons program, which goes against U.S. national intelligence analysis affirming that Iran’s weaponization program was discontinued in 2003 and has remained so ever since
  • The President has no authority to remove this sanction, thereby adding hurdles to negotiations by limiting his ability to offer sanctions relief in return for Iranian concessions


This bill was referred to the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee on May 15, 2013, which will consider it before possibly sending it on to the House or Senate as a whole.

Further Analysis of this Bill:  Long Island Press




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