FPI Analysis: How the White House Sidelines Congress on Iran

May 17, 2016

Over the past year, the Obama administration has repeatedly stated that it will vigorously enforce the nuclear deal with Iran and simultaneously combat Tehran’s terrorism, human rights abuses, ballistic missile tests, and other acts of defiance against the United States and its allies. In response, Congress has proposed dozens of bills, resolutions and amendments that would advance both objectives. Nevertheless, the White House has opposed or otherwise ignored virtually all of them.

This FPI Analysis compiles many of the administration’s own statements on the nuclear deal and broader U.S. policy toward Iran, and compares them with corresponding bills, resolutions and amendments that lawmakers have introduced in the House and Senate.


Holding Iran Accountable for Nuclear Deal Violations

White House Policy

July 15, 2015: “With this deal,” says President Obama during a press conference, “if Iran violates its commitments, there will be real consequences. Nuclear-related sanctions that have helped to cripple the Iranian economy will snap back into place.”

How Congress Seeks to Advance It

Iran Sanctions Relief Oversight Act of 2015 (S. 1682): “To extend the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 and to require the Secretary of the Treasury to report on the use by Iran of funds made available through sanctions relief.” Sponsor: Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) (Press Release)

North Korea and Iran Sanctions Act (S. 2485): “To provide for the immediate reinstatement of sanctions against Iran if Iran attempts to acquire nuclear weapons technology from North Korea.” Sponsor: Sen. John Thune (R-SD) (Press Release)

 

Sanctioning Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)

White House Policy

September 3, 2015: “[W]e will continue to push back against the destabilizing activities of Iran,” says Vice President Joe Biden during a speech in Atlanta, “defending our interests and our allies against Iranian aggression; speaking out against anti-Semitism, Iran’s human rights abuses and demand the release of people illegally held; and continue to sanction and maintain sanctions on any entities, including the IRGC and [IRGC Quds Force Commander Qassem] Soleimani and others — who support and engage in destabilization.”

How Congress Seeks to Advance It

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps Sanctions Implementation and Review Act (H.R. 4312): “To provide for more effective sanctions against Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps or any of its officials, agents, or affiliates to counter support for international terrorism and assistance to the Assad regime in Syria.” Sponsor: Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA)

Quarantining the Ayatollah’s State-Sponsored Aggression and Militancy (QASSAM) Act (H.R. 4258): “To impose sanctions against any entity with respect to which Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps owns, directly or indirectly, a 20 percent or greater interest in the entity, and for other purposes.” Sponsor: Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) (Press Release)

IRGC Sanctions Act (H.R. 4257): “To protect the American and Iranian peoples as well as the global economy from Iran’s systematic abjuration of international legal standards on human and civil rights, its support for international terrorism, and the corrosive economic malfeasance of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, and for other purposes.” Sponsor: Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) (Press Release)

IRGC Terrorist Designation Act (H.R. 3646 and S. 2094): “To direct the Secretary of State to submit to Congress a report on the designation of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization, and for other purposes.” Sponsors: Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (Press Release)

Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (H.R. 4909): “Prevents the DoD from using FY17 funds to contract, or conduct significant transactions with Iranian persons such as those who are on the SDN list, part of the IRGC, or part of the Government of Iran.” Sponsor: Rep: Jackie Walorski (R-IN)

 

Prohibiting Iran’s Access to the U.S. Financial System

White House Policy

July 23, 2015: “Iranian banks will not be able to clear U.S. dollars through New York, hold correspondent account relationships with U.S. financial institutions, or enter into financing arrangements with U.S. banks,” says Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew in a Senate hearing. “Iran, in other words, will continue to be denied access to the world’s largest financial and commercial market.”

How Congress Seeks to Advance It

Preventing Iran’s Access to United States Dollars Act of 2016 (H.R. 4995 and S. 2752): “To prohibit the facilitation of certain financial transactions involving the Government of Iran or Iranian persons and to impose sanctions with respect to the facilitation of those transactions, and for other purposes.” Sponsors: Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) (Roskam Press Release and Rubio Press Release)

United States Financial System Protection Act of 2016 (H.R. 4992): “To codify regulations relating to transfers of funds involving Iran, and for other purposes.” Sponsor: Rep. Edward Royce (R-CA) (Press Release)

No Dollars for Iran Act (H.R. 4898): “To prohibit the Department of the Treasury from issuing licenses to permit offshore dollar clearing outside of the United States financial system for transactions involving or benefitting Iran.” Sponsor: Rep. David Trott (R-MI) (Press Release)

Iran Financial System Access Limitation Act of 2016 (S. 2757): “To prohibit certain transactions with Iran and to impose sanctions with respect to foreign financial institutions that facilitate such transactions, and for other purposes.” Sponsor: Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) (Press Release)

 

Iran’s Terrorism, Human Rights Abuses, and Ballistic Missile Program

White House Policy

July 23, 2015: “We will not violate the JCPOA if we use our authorities to impose sanctions on Iran for terrorism, human rights, missiles, or other nonnuclear reasons,” says Secretary of State John Kerry in a Senate hearing. “And the JCPOA does not provide Iran any relief from United States sanctions under any of those authorities or other authorities.”

How Congress Seeks to Advance It

Iran Ballistic Missile Sanctions Act of 2016 (H.R. 4815 and S. 2725): “To impose sanctions with respect to the ballistic missile program of Iran, and for other purposes.” Sponsors: Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) (Pompeo Press Release and Ayotte Press Release)

Iran Ballistic Missile Prevention and Sanctions Act of 2016 (H.R. 4342): “To impose sanctions on persons that transfer to or from Iran advanced conventional weapons or ballistic missiles, or technology, parts, components, or technical information related to advanced conventional weapons or ballistic missiles.” Sponsor: Rep. John Delaney (D-MD) (Press Release)

Zero Tolerance for Terror Act (H.R. 4333): “To authorize expedited consideration of sanctions in the event that the Government of Iran commits acts of terror or uses ballistic missile technology in violation of international law.” Sponsor: Rep. Joseph Kennedy (D-MA) (Press Release)

Iranian Terrorism and Human Rights Abuses (S. 2726): “To hold Iran accountable for its state sponsorship of terrorism and other threatening activities and for its human rights abuses, and for other purposes.” Sponsor: Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) (Press Release)

Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (H.R. 4909): “Requires the President to officially notify Congress whenever Iran conducts a ballistic missile launch (including ballistic missile tests) and inform the Congress as to actions the President will take in response, including diplomatic efforts to pursue additional sanctions, including through passage of a United Nations Security Council resolution.” Sponsor: Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA)

 

Oversight, Enforcement, and Transparency

White House Policy

July 15, 2015: “With this deal, we gain unprecedented, around-the-clock monitoring of Iran’s key nuclear facilities and the most comprehensive and intrusive inspection and verification regime ever negotiated,” says President Obama during a press conference. He adds: “Realizing the promise of this deal will require many years of implementation and hard work. It will require vigilance and execution.”

How Congress Seeks to Advance It

JCPOA Intelligence Enforcement Act of 2016 (H.R. 4940): “To direct the Director of National Intelligence to establish an integration cell to monitor and enforce the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and for other purposes.” Sponsor: Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) (Press Release)

Sanctioned Iranian Entities Oversight Act of 2016 (H.R. 4633): “To modify and extend reporting requirements on the use of certain Iranian seaports by foreign vessels and use of foreign airports by sanctioned Iranian air carriers.” Sponsor: Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) (Press Release) (A version of this bill was also introduced as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017.)

Commission to Verify Iranian Nuclear Compliance Act (H.R. 3741): “To establish the Commission to Verify Iranian Nuclear Compliance.” Sponsor: Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA) (Press Release)

Iran Policy Oversight Act of 2015 (S. 2119): “To provide for greater congressional oversight of Iran’s nuclear program, and for other purposes.” Sponsor: Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) (Press Release)

Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (H.R. 4909): “Requires that any future purchase of nuclear goods from Iran be subject to DOD reprogramming. Requires that any OFAC license would have to sit with the congress for 90 legislative days.” Sponsor: Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL)

 

Sanctioning Iran’s Central Bank

White House Policy

July 23, 2015: Asked by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) during a Senate hearing whether sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank aimed at deterring the regime’s terrorist activity would constitute “a material breach of the accord,” Secretary of State John Kerry answers, “No.”

How Congress Seeks to Advance It

H.R. 3728: “To amend the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 to modify the requirement to impose sanctions with respect to the provision of specialized financial messaging services to the Central Bank of Iran and other sanctioned Iranian financial institutions, and for other purposes.” Sponsor: Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ)

 

Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of Iran’s Nuclear Program

White House Policy

July 24, 2015: “PMD has to be resolved before they get one ounce of sanctions relief,” Secretary of State John Kerry tells the Council on Foreign Relations.

How Congress Seeks to Advance It

Ending Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program Before Sanctions Relief (H.R. 4344 and S. 2429): “To require a report on the military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program and to prohibit the provision of sanctions relief to Iran until Iran has verifiably ended all military dimensions of its nuclear program, and for other purposes.” Sponsors: Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) (Press Release)

 

Cybersecurity

White House Policy

July 29, 2015: “I am very concerned about Iranian cyber activity,” Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter tells Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) during a Senate hearing. He adds: “This is a big problem, and sadly, I share the lack of confidence you have in the adequacy of our defenses. In the defense department, you’d think, with all that we have paid attention to protecting our own networks, that we would be secure, but we’re not, and we know that.”

How Congress Seeks to Advance It

Iran Cyber Sanctions Act of 2016 (H.R. 5222 and S. 2756): “To impose sanctions with respect to Iranian persons responsible for knowingly engaging in significant activities undermining cybersecurity, and for other purposes.” Sponsors: Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) and Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) (Ratcliffe Press Release and Rounds Press Release)

 

The Military Option

White House Policy

August 19, 2015: “The JCPOA, moreover, does not remove any of our options when it comes to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” writes President Obama. “As I have repeatedly emphasized, my Administration will take whatever means are necessary to achieve that goal, including military means. Should Iran seek a dash toward a nuclear weapon, all of the options available to the United States – including the military option – will remain available through the life of the deal and beyond.”

How Congress Seeks to Advance It

H. Res. 600: “Reaffirming the right for the United States to use all available options, including the use of military force, to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.” Sponsor: Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) (Press Release)

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