AIPAC-backed US House bill seeks to broaden Iran sanctions

AIPAC-backed US House bill seeks to broaden Iran sanctions

Bipartisan measure targeting links to Iranian Revolutionary Guard will feature on legislative agenda at pro-Israel lobby’s annual conference next week

AIPAC conference participants at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC, March 21, 2017. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images via JTA)
AIPAC conference participants at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC, March 21, 2017. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images via JTA)

The top Republican and the top Democrat on the US House Foreign Affairs Committee have introduced a bill that would broaden sanctions targeting the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The bill was proposed Thursday, three days before the start of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference in Washington, DC.

Republican Ed Royce, the Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, and Democrat Eliot Engel, its ranking Democrat, sponsored the measure, which would remove the 50 percent threshold for Revolutionary Guard ownership that currently makes companies eligible for sanctions. Its sponsorship by two party leaders boosts its chance of passage.

The measure will be featured on the AIPAC conference’s legislative agenda.

The pro-Israel lobby also wants to address US President Donald Trump’s concerns with the 2015 deal between the international community and Iran, trading sanctions relief for a rollback of Iran’s nuclear program.

Like Trump, AIPAC wants easier access for inspectors to Iran’s military bases, an extension or a lifting of “sunsets” for some of the provisions (currently between 10 and 15 years) and the expansion of the deal to roll back Iran’s ballistic missile program.

But as opposed to the sanctions of the Revolutionary Guard, there is pronounced partisan disagreement on anything that directly challenges the nature of the nuclear deal. Democrats are wary of any moves they believe would ultimately scuttle the pact, brokered by the Obama administration, while some Republicans want to toughen the deal up and others want to nix it altogether.

In this Friday, Oct. 13, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump makes a statement on Iran policy in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

In January, Trump signed a waiver to keep the deal alive, but vowed it would be the last time he did so, unless the US and Europe worked to strengthen it.

“Today, I am waiving the application of certain nuclear sanctions, but only in order to secure our European allies’ agreement to fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal,” Trump said in a statement. “This is a last chance.”

His administration has expressed concerned that parts of the deal begin expiring in 2026 and that it fails to address Iran’s missile program, its regional activities or its human rights abuses.

At the time, Trump laid out four conditions that must be met for him to not abrogate the deal, including increased inspections, ensuring that “Iran never even comes close to possessing a nuclear weapon” and that there is no expiration date to the nuke deal.

His last condition required Capitol Hill lawmakers to pass a bill unilaterally incorporating Iran’s missile program into the deal.

Trump must sign the next waiver by May 12.

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