Washington, DC - Twenty-three organizations, including the National Iranian American Council, sent a letter to the relevant Congressional committees today calling for a halt to any further consideration of Iran sanctions legislation in light of Iran's recent elections in which the Iranian people defied the odds and voted for moderation over radicalism.
The letter also raises concerns about recent sanctions legislation passed out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that could potentially receive a vote before the full House before Congress adjourns for its annual August recess. The bill, H.R.850, would include limits on President Obama's waiver authority, which the groups argue would weaken his ability to potentially ease sanctions at the negotiating table in exchange for Iranian nuclear concessions.
The full text of the letter and the organizations who signed is below.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Royce and Ranking Member Engel
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Menendez and Ranking Member Corker
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Johnson and Ranking Member Crapo
With promising new developments arising from Iran’s presidential election, we strongly urge that Congress refrain from any action that could jeopardize a potential diplomatic opening to resolve the nuclear issue, as well as other important areas including human rights and regional issues. In particular, we urge that Congress withhold further consideration of Iran sanctions legislation, including H.R.850 in the House of Representatives.
Iran’s newly elected president, Hassan Rouhani, campaigned on a promise to "pursue a policy of reconciliation and peace," and called U.S.-Iran relations an “old wound that needs to be healed.” On the nuclear program, he has said Iran is “ready to show more transparency.” On the issue of human rights, he has suggested that his government will work for the release of those arrested in the aftermath of the 2009 elections and that Iran should not hold political prisoners.
It remains to be seen whether Rouhani will deliver on these promises, but we must not dismiss this major potential opportunity. Further sanctions at this time would risk undermining forces of moderation in Iran and empower hardliners who oppose nuclear concessions and reconciliation with the United States. Additionally, new sanctions would be a slap in the face to the millions of Iranians who voted to overcome the odds and support change in Iran and a more pragmatic approach by their government.
While the Supreme Leader has the final say over the nuclear file, the office of the president has considerable influence. Many of the major Iranian nuclear initiatives of the past decade have been initiated by the Iran's president. This includes the suspension of enrichment and the signing of the IAEA’s Additional Protocol while Rouhani was chief nuclear negotiator under President Khatami from 2003 to 2005. These measures were later reversed by President Ahmadinejad.
Congress should work with President Obama to support a reinvigorated diplomatic initiative to test whether Rouhani’s election truly represents an opportunity for diplomatic progress, including securing a deal that ensures Iran does not build a nuclear weapon. To do so, existing sanctions must be appropriately calibrated so that the President has the flexibility to ease them at the negotiating table in exchange for verifiable Iranian concessions. We have serious concerns about H.R. 850 in this regard, as it was amended in Committee to eliminate a Presidential waiver on nonproliferation sanctions and to impose new constraints on his waiver authority on oil sanctions.
Congress should also consider how the United States can respond to the Iranian people's laudable efforts in their election by working to address the shortages of medicine and humanitarian goods in Iran caused in part by sanctions. Unfortunately, sanctions legislation including H.R.850 would likely worsen shortages of humanitarian goods inside Iran, including life-saving medicine, by failing to exempt those goods from sanctions intended to curb commercial trade with Iran.
We strongly urge you to withhold further consideration of sanctions legislation and for Congress and the Obama Administration to work in close collaboration to test the major potential opportunity presented by the new Iranian president. The United States cannot afford to miss or dismiss this crucial opportunity.
National Iranian American Council
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Americans for Peace Now
Center for Interfaith Engagement, Eastern Mennonite University
Common Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ
Conference of Major Superiors of Men
Council for a Livable World
Fellowship of Reconciliation
Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions (Georgia WAND)
Just Foreign Policy
Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Provincial Office
Mainstream Media Project
Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office
Peace Action West
Physicians for Social Responsibility
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Progressive Democrats of America
Shomer Shalom Network for Jewish Nonviolence
Tikkun/Network of Spiritual Progressives
Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment)
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
Win Without War
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