25
May

Congressional Round-up

New Sanctions Resolutions and Bills Passed in the wake of Baghdad Talks with Iran

As part of the effort to inform the Iranian American community on issues affecting their lives, PAAIA is reporting on the current legislation that was passed in Congress in the wake of the current negotiations between the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany and Iran.  The 2nd round of P5+1  negotiations with Iran, commonly referred to as the Baghdad Talks, has reached an impasse toward resolving the issue of Iran’s controversial nuclear program. In spite of this impasse, the negotiating countries have agreed to meet next month in Moscow to resume talks. In spite of the agreement to continue talks in Moscow, tough sanctions halting the sale of Iranian oil to the European Union is still set in place for July unless a deal is reached before the deadline. In wake of the 2nd round of negotiations with Iran, Congress has passed a series of bills and resolutions strengthening the menu of sanctions for the President to use in dealing Islamic Republic of Iran and expressing that U.S. policy should be to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons capability. Thus far there has been no Congressional authorization on the use of force against Iran. The outcome on the implementation of these new sanctions remain undetermined and will be better assessed following the outcome of the next round of negotiations set in Moscow next month.

Round-Up

Congress has considered a number of legislative initiatives relating to Iran. The measures are intended to send a message to the Iranian regime on the consequences it will face if an agreement is not reached on its nuclear program.  Supporters of this approach argue that Congress is helping the Administration in providing it with the necessary tools it needs to negotiate with Iran, while critics claim the approach undermines the President’s approach in addressing Iran’s nuclear program.  

Bills & Resolutions

H.Res.568:  Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding the importance of preventing the Government of Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability

The resolution affirms that it is a vital national interest of the United States to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.  It urges increasing economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran to secure an agreement and oppose any policy that would rely on containment as an option in response to the Iranian nuclear threat.  The resolution passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 401 to 11 with 9 members voting present.  A similar resolution has been introduced in the Senate by Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and has 77 co-sponsors.   Critics have warned that the resolution would lower the bar for war with Iran  while supporters suggest that as a non-binding (simple) resolution it is an articulation of the positions to address Iran’s controversial nuclear program, consistent with U.S. Policy.   

Congressman Howard Berman (D-CA) – a lead sponsor of the resolution – responding to a question from Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD) during the House deliberations clarified that the resolution is  in “no way intended and in no way can it be interpreted as an authorization for the use of military force.” Congressman Berman went on to state that ‘nuclear weapons capability’ is the point at which Iran has mastered all elements necessary to produce nuclear weapons.  “There are three elements, as defined by the Director of National Intelligence: fissile material production, one. Design, weaponization, and testing of a warhead, two. A delivery vehicle. To be nuclear-capable, you really have to have to master all three elements.”

House Passes H.R. 4310:  National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) 

On May 18, 2012, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4310 , with amendments by a vote of 299-120.  The bill authorizes appropriations to the Department of Defense (DOD) for FY2013 and includes several provisions in relations to Iran (Sections 1221-1223).  The provisions  include a declaration of readiness to use military action against Iran, urges the Administration to take steps to bring the U.S. to a visible war footing against Iran, and requires the Administration to prepare a plan (and report on it to Congress) to achieve that. In its ‘Statement on Policy’ for H.R. 4310, the Obama Administration had gone on the record objecting to Sections 1221-1222.    An amendment agreed to by a voic vote  and offered by Representatives John Conyers (D-MI), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Walter Jones (R-NC), and Ron Paul (R-TX) clarified “that nothing in the bill shall be construed as authorizing the use of force against Iran.”    

Senate Passes S. 2101: Iran Sanction, Accountability, and Human Rights Act

On May 21, 2012, the Senate discharged the Foreign Relations Committee from further consideration of H.R.1905, Iran Threat Reduction Act, and  proceeded to its consideration by substituting the language of the bill with S.2101, the Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Human Rights Act, as reported by the Banking Committee.  The substitute, as amended, was agreed to by unanimous consent. The bill broadens the list of available programs under which sanctions can be imposed on Iranian individuals and entities, including sanctions against companies that engage in or back censorship in Iran, and for the first time in binding legislation defines the capability of Iran building a nuclear weapon as posing a threat to the United States.   The passage of the bill came after Senators agreed on a compromise that would add language to the legislation stating that  military force  is a viable option to stop Iran from building a nuclear weapon but also includes language introduced by Senator Rand Paul, which states that nothing in the bill can be construed as a declaration of war or an authorization of the use of force against Iran or Syria.  

The Senate bill will now have to be reconciled with version of sanctions legislation passed by the House of Representatives in December of 2011.  

 

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