By: Jamal Abdi, Thursday, April 29, 2010
Source: National Iranian American Council (NIAC)
Washington, DC - Congress' march to impose new sanctions on Iran entered the final stretch yesterday afternoon, with Members of the House and Senate convening a public meeting at the Capitol to reconcile differences between broad sanctions measures passed by each chamber. The formal Conference process is expected to produce a bill to be signed into law by the President, likely before the end of May.
Both the House and the Senate have endorsed measures that would restrict gasoline from being shipped to or refined in Iran, but questions remain about how much flexibility the President should have to impose these sanctions and how much leeway to allow countries who are working with the U.S. to enact multilateral sanctions efforts.
Concerns have also been raised that no human rights provisions have been included, which some Conferees pledged to address.
However, while possible efforts to enhance Internet access were mentioned briefly, the only human rights proposals that were discussed were new sanctions against human rights abusers. Senate Banking Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT), the author of the Senate sanctions bill, stated that human rights measures would be included in the final package. House Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA), the lead sponsor of the House sanctions bill, indicated support for human rights sanctions.
Representatives Jim Costa (R-CA), Ed Royce (R-CA), Scott Garrett (R-NJ), and Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), also expressed support for sanctions against human rights abusers, but did not discuss any proactive measures to help the Iranian people.
Such proposals do exist in Congress, such as the Stand With the Iranian People Act (H.R.4303), which would ease restrictions that prevent American humanitarian relief organizations from working in Iran. Two of the Conferees are cosponsors of the Stand With the Iranian People Act-Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and Rep. John Tanner (D-TN). It remains to be seen whether Conferees will adopt this proposal in the final bill that emerges.
Conferees also talked about the need to "express solidarity" with the people of Iran and "bolster the opposition movement". However, none of the Conferees discussed how gasoline sanctions would punish those very same Iranians or that Iranian opposition leaders have spoken out against such sanctions, favoring measures aimed at Iran's government. Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA), argued that measures targeted at Iran's government and not its people would be ineffective, asserting that "smart sanctions are dumb."
Conferees also discussed the potential for war with Iran, with Senator Lieberman maintaining that, even if sanctions pass, the use of military force against Iran may still be a necessity. Representative David Scott (D-GA) echoed this point, stating that sanctions were the last chance to avoid military strikes. House Middle East Subcommittee Chairman Gary Ackerman stated that, even as the U.S. proceeded with peaceful measures, he did not believe success on this course would be likely.
Howard L. Berman (D-CA)
Gary L. Ackerman (D-NY)
Brad Sherman (D-CA)
Jim Costa (D-CA)
David Scott (D-GA)
Joseph Crowley (D-NY)
Ron Klein (D-FL)
Dan Burton (R-IN)
Edward R. Royce (R-CA)
Mike Pence (R-IN)
Barney Frank (D-MA)
Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY)
Scott Garrett (R-NJ)
Sander M. Levin (D-MI)
John S. Tanner (D-TN)
Dave Camp (R-MI)
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