Written by NIAC Staff
Washington DC - The National Iranian American Council is deeply concerned that the House of Representatives' plan to bring H.R. 2194, the Iranian Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act (IRPSA), to a vote the week of December 14, 2009 is a move in the direction of punishing the Iranian people instead of the Iranian government. NIAC supports the Obama Administration's ongoing engagement efforts and, though the Iranian government's response has thus far been frustrating, the US must remain committed to working in concert with its international partners. Considering unilateral sanctions at this time threatens to preempt and undermine the President's multilateral efforts.
A successful strategy for dealing with Iran must have diplomatic engagement as its basis. Sanctions can play a constructive role within that process, but in order to be effective they must target the Iranian government and the individuals responsible for the government's reprehensible behavior, with a special emphasis on those guilty of human rights violations.
As Congress moves forward, NIAC encourages Congressional action to meet the following standards:
Do not harm the Iranian people - No one has suffered under the repressive rule of the Iranian Government more than the Iranian people. Unilateral sanctions such as those included in IRPSA will hurt the people of Iran immensely and do little to target the actors such as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps who have consolidated power under the shadow of outside threats and profited under the sanctions economy.
As the Iranian people continue to stand up to their government, prominent members of Iran's opposition movement, such as Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi, along with human rights defenders like Shirin Ebadi and Akbar Ganji, have all spoken out strongly against broad, untargeted sanctions such as those contained in IRPSA.
Do not undermine the President - The Obama Administration has invested in a strategy of engagement with Iran because it is the best option to change the Iranian Government's behavior. While this process has been predictably difficult, Congress must not rush to pass legislation that will undermine multilateral efforts and tie the President's hands. The President has been consistent in stating that he will evaluate progress on the engagement process once the year has ended. This commitment was reiterated on December 3 by White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, who stated that the Administration's deadline for Iran is the end of the year. If the House passes IRPSA now, they send the world a signal that the US Congress does not support the President's plan and is taking steps to preempt it.
Do not undermine the unity among US partners - On November 26, the IAEA voted overwhelmingly to approve a resolution censuring Iran. Significantly, all five veto-wielding members of the Security Council voted in favor of the measure, which opens up the potential for another round of Security Council sanctions. The significant progress in uniting the Security Council is attributable to President Obama's investment in diplomacy. If Congress moves forward with sanctions that target our allies, that unity will collapse. Trying to coerce the support of the rest of the world with threats and penalties will not isolate Iran; in fact, it may only isolate the United States.
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