New Iran Sanctions Push U.S and Iran Closer Toward War

Aug 1, 2012

8/2/2012 UPDATE: H.R. 1905 has passed 421-6. See the vote results here.

See a PDF of the official statement here.

Contact: Kate Gould
Phone: 202-547-6000

Washington, DC – FCNL’s Lobbyist on Middle East issues Kate Gould issued the following statement opposing the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 (H.R. 1905) that is expected to reach the House floor today:

The Friends Committee on National Legislation strongly opposes the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 (H.R. 1905). We believe this legislation would undermine human rights in Iran and cripple the accountability of the diplomatic process now underway to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, pushing the U.S. and Iran closer toward a devastating war.

War is the ultimate human rights violation, and this bill lays the groundwork for war by escalating the scale of economic warfare that Congress would impose on ordinary Iranian citizens. As in the case of the decades of U.S. and U.N. sanctions against Iraq that culminated in a U.S. invasion of that country, economic warfare punishes civilians, emboldens hardliners in Iran’s regime, and forecloses diplomatic options to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran and war.

Punishing Iranian Civilians

FCNL and ten other national advocacy and religious organizations from the human rights and peace and security community wrote to Senator Tim Johnson, Chair of the Senate Banking Committee, last week to oppose this bill and to highlight the importance of keeping channels open for Iranians to have access to food, medicine, and other humanitarian goods and services.

Ordinary Iranians already face tremendous difficulties in accessing basic medicine under sanctions. For example, this week, the board of directors of the Iranian Hemophilia Society informed the World Federation of Hemophilia that the lives of tens of thousands of children are being endangered by the lack of proper drugs, as a consequence of international sanctions.

The Iranian Hemophilia Society notes that U.S. and international sanctions technically do not ban medical goods. Yet, despite the ‘humanitarian exemption’ in U.S. sanctions laws, medicine is not getting in to Iran because the “sanctions imposed on the Central Bank of Iran and the country’s other financial institutions have severely disrupted the purchase and transfer of medical goods.”

The humanitarian exemption is of profound importance, as the U.S. business community and humanitarian organizations have pointed out. We are relieved that this legislation does not directly prohibit Iranians from accessing food, medicine, and humanitarian trade. However, if the Iranian civilian economy is destroyed by sanctions, then millions of Iranians will be deprived of their livelihoods, and unable to purchase the food, medicine, and other goods that the humanitarian exemption is supposed to protect. Further destabilization of the Iranian currency and decimation of the Iranian economy will push Iran closer to the state of Iraq when it was under sanctions. During that time, UNICEF estimated that U.N. sanctions contributed to the deaths of half a million children.

Emboldening Hardliners in Iran

This bill would embolden hardliners in the Iranian regime, at the expense of the civilians who will overwhelmingly bear the brunt of these sanctions. Just as Saddam Hussein never missed a meal under the decades of sanctions against Iraq, top Iranian officials will not have difficulty accessing food and medicine. National security expert Fareed Zakaria has noted that the U.S./U.N. sanctions’ “basic effect has been to weaken civil society and strengthen the state”, and that “the other effects of the sanctions has been that larger and larger parts of the economy are now controlled by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard—the elite corps of the armed forces.”

Foreclosing Diplomatic Options, Laying Groundwork for War

As countless U.S. and Israeli security officials have pointed out, diplomacy is the single most effective way to prevent war and a nuclear-armed Iran. This bill would be a setback to achieving a near-term diplomatic resolution of the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program, foreclosing diplomatic options to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran and a devastating war.

This bill would tie the president’s hands, eroding the little flexibility that Congress normally allows the executive branch to conduct negotiations with Iran and allow for sanctions relief in exchange for serious, verifiable Iranian concessions. We are particularly concerned about section 217, which effectively endorses regime change. The provision would prohibit the president from lifting sanctions against the Central Bank of Iran unless Iran agrees to a host of conditions that the Islamic Republic of Iran cannot reasonably be expected to agree to.

As veteran intelligence officer Paul Pillar has pointed out, requiring Iran to end efforts to “acquire or develop ballistic missiles”, [section 217 (d)(1)(A)(iii)] “goes beyond any United Nations resolutions on Iran, which talk about nuclear capability of missiles, and even beyond anything ever demanded of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, for which range limits were imposed. It would be understandable if Tehran reads such language as further evidence that the United States is not interested in any negotiated agreement but instead only in regime change.”

The bill even requires the president to certify that Iran does not “construct, equip, operate, or maintain nuclear facilities that could aid Iran’s effort to acquire a nuclear capability” [section 217 (d)(1)(A)(ii.)]: in order to lift sanctions against Iran’s Central Bank. It appears that Congress is requiring that these broad, indiscriminate sanctions remain in place unless Iran surrenders its nuclear program entirely, even if it is a verifiably peaceful program.

FCNL strongly urges members of Congress to speak out and vote against this broad, indiscriminate sanctions legislation on the House floor today.


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