What the latest Iran vote tells us

The Republican-led House overwhelmingly approved bipartisan legislation Thursday that would slap new sanctions on Iran for its pursuit of long-range ballistic missiles without derailing the 2015 international nuclear accord that President Donald Trump has threatened to unravel.

Reps. Ed Royce and Eliot Engel sponsored the bill, which requires the Trump administration to identify for sanctions the companies and individuals inside and outside of Iran that are the main suppliers of Tehran’s ballistic missile programs.

Lawmakers voted 423-2 to pass the measure.

This follows a broad-based sanctions bill against Iran, North Korea and Russia passed by a 419-3 vote. It also follows yesterday’s voice vote in favor of additional sanctions on Hezbollah. The House has also passed a measure, again by voice vote, aimed at Hezbollah to apply sanctions to individuals who use civilians as human shields.

The American Israel Political Affairs Committee put out a statement applauding the recent House votes:

AIPAC applauds the U.S. House of Representatives for overwhelmingly adopting four bipartisan measures that target Iran and Hizballah’s malign activities. We appreciate the House’s efforts to counter the dangerous aggression of Iran and Hizballah, as well as to sanction those that support the terrorist organization with its fundraising and recruitment. We concur with imposing sanctions on those who assist Hizballah with its reprehensible practice of using Lebanese civilians as human shields

The vote, a bold move on behalf of the United States, our European allies (with whom we negotiated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) and Israel, is significant in two respects.

First, it is near-unanimous, reaffirming the bipartisan support for Israel that frayed in President Barack Obama’s administration, which regularly antagonized Israel’s leadership. Republicans who have rightly fretted about a decline in Democratic support for Israel should take a deep breath. At the political level, in the post-Obama years, Democrats are evidencing robust support for Israel and for a tough line against Iran. At a time when the two parties can agree on virtually nothing, support for Israel once again remains a largely bipartisan issue.

Second, this is a vivid demonstration of why the administration’s “decertification” strategy — which has created a schism with allies and put the United States, not Iran, in a box — is both gratuitous and counterproductive. The United States can leave the JCPOA in place and move decisively on issues not covered by the JCPOA while maintaining a united front with allies and protecting the United States’ standing in the world.

The AP report explains:

Royce, a California Republican, is chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and Engel, who is from New York, is the panel’s top Democrat. Both opposed the nuclear agreement when it was forged two years ago, but neither lawmaker is in favor of ditching the deal now.

Lawmakers are aiming to hold Iran accountable for what they say is reckless, destabilizing behavior while they debate how to meet Trump’s new demands for fixing what he and other Republicans argue are serious flaws with the nuclear agreement.

Royce has said that despite the deal’s defects, he wants the U.S. and other nations that are party to the accord to “enforce the hell out of it.”

Engel has said unwinding the agreement would send a dangerous signal to allies and adversaries alike. He backs aggressive policing of the agreement to ensure Iran doesn’t violate the terms.

Why didn’t the administration suggest this route? It surely would have been embraced, just as the legislation was by Congress. Dennis Ross, a veteran of many Middle East negotiations, told me that “it can’t be that Iran whether on ballistic missiles or regional misbehavior is free to do so on the grounds that it is not prohibited by the JCPOA and we are not free to respond. That does not mean applying sanctions that we applied in response to their nuclear program.”

Ah, remember the decertification strategy was designed to assuage the president, who had a “fit” when he last certified the deal and is intent on shredding the JCPOA with no viable alternative in sight. It’s the brainchild of Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and others, many of whom see military action as the only “solution” to Iran.

If the Senate is wise, it will largely ignore Trump’s action, pass the missile sanctions bill and let him crow that his “brilliant” strategy inspired Congress to act. Whatever. The important message here is the JCPOA is not the sum total of our Iran policy.


Source www.washingtonpost.com

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