The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) is pleased that the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISADA) of 2010 has finally passed and urges President Obama to sign this legislation into law and vigorously implement its provisions. If robustly enforced, CISADA constitutes the greatest advancement of the use of sanctions and other non-military punitive measures to combat the threat posed by the Iranian regime. Nevertheless, ZOA is troubled that most of this legislations many strong provisions have been weakened because they are subject to broad discretionary waivers and exceptions that the President and Executive Branch officials may exercise.
Further, the Executive branch has an unfortunate bi-partisan history of ignoring substantive provisions and undermining the stated policy of deterring Iran from continuing on its path to acquiring nuclear weapons. Also, the ZOA is concerned that the Obama Administration has made zero progress in getting the Iranian regime to slow or stop its drive towards a nuclear weapons capability. Moreover, ZOA is concerned about the Obama Administrations commitment to implementing these sanctions because of the fact that they have delayed the passage of this sanctions bill over the last six months.
Additionally, ZOA notes Secretary of State Hillary Clintons troubling remarks (June 25th) upon the passage of CISADA, that she and the President are committed to fully implementing this legislation in a manner that advances our multilateral dual-track strategy of engagement and pressure. Adding that the United States will work with our partners to maximize the impact of these efforts and to continue pursuing a diplomatic resolution to the international communitys concerns regarding Irans nuclear program. Such statements, coupled with this administrations track record, leave doubt as to the effective enforcement of CISADA.
As respected Middle East authority Barry Rubin observes the problem is that the administration has been too quick to seek engagement with Tehran, too eager to make unilateral concessions, too naïve in interpreting the Iranian regime as moderate, and too timid about getting tough. In other words, it is possible that the administration will take credit for congressional sanctions that it delayed for six months and then not even carry them out in (unrealistic) hope of making some deal with Tehran.
Similar concerns about the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 have been expressed by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who said that In principle, this conference report [CISADA] is a step forward. It expands the types of sanctions and the range of actors and activities to be sanctioned, in an effort to strike at the Iranian regimes key vulnerabilities, especially its dependence on refined petroleum. The most important are a set of financial measures that, if implemented, would force foreign financial institutions to choose between doing business with Iran or the United States. It also increases penalties on violators. Unfortunately, this Act also contains a key element that could significantly undercut its effectiveness-multiple exceptions and waivers for the President and Executive Branch officials. That means that, by a stroke of a pen, substantive provisions can be transformed into mere recommendations or options. We must not allow this to happen.
In discussing CISADA on the floor of the House of Representatives, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen also said, that she and other members of the conference committee had hoped that the bill before us would avoid repeating past mistakesthat is, avoid undermining its effectiveness by giving the President the option of doing nothing. That was not to be. The result is that the President is authorized to waive not only the imposition of sanctions for refined petroleum transactions, investments in Irans energy sector, and aid to Irans programs on weapons of mass destruction, missile and advanced conventional weapons, but even basic investigations and determinations of some sanctionable activities. In fact, with respect to the inclusion of financial sanctions and a visa ban against those committing serious human rights abuses against the Iranian people, not only can the President waive the sanctions, he can waive the requirement to name and shame these human rights abusers by listing them publicly.
Rep. Ros-Lehtinen also pointed out that, Some will argue that this bill goes further than any before in forcing the President to act-even if it is by invoking one of the waivers or exemptions in this bill. However, it would be disingenuous to make such a claim given that the President could have issued any Executive Order to implement a wide array of additional Iran sanctions and he didnt. This Administration and the Bush Administration chose to hide behind the broad Clinton waiver of the Iran Sanctions Act rather than investigating and sanctioning violators under the Act. We must ensure this does not happen again.
Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ), in his floor statement in support of CISADA, said Today we are about to pass a conference report that was supposed to protect Americans and our allies. Yet if that was our goal, I believe we only have partial success. As a conferee representing the Financial Services Committee, I do admit that the sanctions themselves have been improved. I was pleased to see that the legislation includes financial sanctions that would cut off the connections between the U.S. financial sector and foreign financial institutions that do business with Iran. Yes, the conference report does add additional types of sanctions, and it extends the range of current sanctions. But I remind my colleagues that these punishments are hardly crippling, theyre hardly tough, theyre hardly sweeping or even expanded if they are never enforced This legislation does in fact have seven separate waivers which the President may invoke. In addition, there are three different waiver thresholds. The end result is that the President has the option of enforcing most of the punitive measures outlined in the report [Congressional supporters of the Administration have said] that they will now pressure the President to implement the sanctions outlined in this legislation. But weve been hearing that for 16 months. Weve been told that the Presidents attempts to engage the U.N. about Iran would produce diplomatic gains. Yet the recently passed U.N. security resolution was hardly that significant of a success.
CISADA is still a step forward if it is used to help make Iran change course. If implemented and enforced, this act would greatly strengthen US policy by:
o Sanctioning foreign entities that assist Iran in importing refined petroleum or in maintaining or expanding Irans domestic refining capacity.
o Closing the loophole in existing law on entities that provide goods, services, or technology to Irans oil and natural gas sector.
o Sanctioning parent companies if their subsidiaries engage in sanctionable activities in Irans energy sector.
o Providing for financial sanctions that would effectively cut off from the U.S. financial sector those foreign financial institutions that do business with Irans Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) or Iranian banks under sanctions, or that aid Irans nuclear program or its state sponsorship of terrorism.
o Requiring the President to investigate investments in Irans energy sector that could be sanctionable under the Iran Sanctions Act.
o Restricting licenses for the export of goods, services, or technology pursuant to a nuclear cooperation agreement to any country that aids Irans pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability.
o Requiring a certification from entities seeking contracts with the U.S. that they are not engaged in sanctionable activities.
o Sanctioning (including through property and financial sanctions and a travel ban) those who commit serious human rights abuses against the people of Iran.
o Prohibiting U.S. government procurement contracts for any foreign company that exports technology to Iran that the regime can use to restrict freedom of information or speech.
o Providing a legal framework for U.S. states and local governments to divest from foreign companies that do business in Irans energy sector.
o Further limiting the goods exempted from the current U.S. trade embargo against Iran.
o Requiring the Director of National Intelligence to report on countries that allow their territory to be used to divert dual-use materials to Iran.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, If immediately implemented and vigorously enforced, there is no doubt that this new Iran Sanctions legislation is now the last best hope that non-military options may persuade Iran to forgo its pursuit of nuclear weapons. The inclusion, however, of multiples waivers and exceptions that enable President Obama and his Executive Branch officials to ignore nearly every sanction or other punitive measure provided for in this legislation is very troubling. The fact that Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama have all ignored congressional Iran sanctions in the past, and that the penalties mandated by previous Congressional legislation have never been imposed on a single individual or company since their inception in 1996, suggest that further instituting Executive flexibility in this latest legislative effort was a mistake.
The Zionist Organization of America, founded in 1897, is the oldest pro-Israel organization in the United States. The ZOA works to strengthen U.S.-Israel relations, educates the American public and Congress about the dangers that Israel faces, and combats anti-Israel bias in the media and on college campuses. Its past presidents have included Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis and Rabbi Dr. Abba Hillel Silver. The ZOA is a 501(c)(3) non-partisan, non-profit, grassroots organization.