United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Heavy Water Controversy

The Iran nuclear deal was officially implemented in January, but the controversy hasn’t ended. The White House and Congress are again at odds over a by-product of the deal—the fate of Iran’s heavy water, which can be used as a moderator and coolant in a nuclear reactor. Tehran had shipped 32 metric tons of heavy water to Oman, where it was stuck without a final destination.
 
In a bid to protect the deal and prevent Iran's use of heavy water in a covert operation, the U.S. Department of Energy announced it would purchase the heavy water, worth $8.6 million. The deal was signed by U.S. and Iranian officials in Vienna, Austria on April 22. “The idea is: OK, we tested it, it's perfectly good heavy water. It meets spec. We'll buy a little of this,” U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told The Wall Street Journal. “That will be a statement to the world: ‘You want to buy heavy water from Iran, you can buy heavy water from Iran. It's been done. Even the United States did it.'”
 
But Congressional Republicans opposed the move and quickly moved to block future purchases. “For Tehran, the nuclear agreement is the gift that keeps on giving. This purchase—part of what appears to be the administration's full-court press to sweeten the deal—will directly subsidize Iran's nuclear program,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said on April 22. “It's yet another unprecedented concession to the world's leading state-sponsor of terrorism.”
 
As part of the nuclear deal, Iran is allowed to use heavy water in its Arak reactor, which is still undergoing modifications, but it is required to sell, dilute or dispose of any excess heavy water. Heavy water, which is not radioactive, is key to the production of nuclear energy in some reactors. It also has research and medical applications. But heavy water reactors are also capable of producing plutonium, which can fuel nuclear weapons.
 
The United States does not currently produce its own heavy water and must buy it from other countries. To save money, it closed a heavy water plant at Savannah River National Laboratory in Georgia in 1981. The heavy water from Iran is to be stored at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, where it will be used for research. Some of the water could also be sold to private companies for commercial use.
 
The Department of Energy stipulated that future purchases would not be automatic. “The United States will not be Iran’s customer forever,” it said in a statement. “It is exclusively Iran’s responsibility to find a way to meet its commitments, whether that is by selling, diluting or disposing of future stocks of heavy water to remain within the [nuclear deal’s] limit.”
 
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) said the United States should not provide Iran with any more funds that could be used to develop its nuclear program or export terror. “U.S. purchase of this sensitive material goes well beyond what is required by the nuclear agreement.  Far from curbing its nuclear program, this encourages Iran to produce more heavy water to sell – with a stamp of U.S. approval – on the international market,” he said. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) called the purchase a “dangerous precedent” that could “pave the way for either additional transactions with Iran or allow Iran to enter the U.S. financial system.”
 
On April 25, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) filed an amendment to the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriation Act that would prohibit the future purchase of heavy water from Iran. On April 26, Senator Cotton released the following statement related to the heavy water purchase:
 
“The Obama Administration stated that this purchase is a one-time deal and the United States will not become a repeat customer of Iran's over-production of heavy water. Regrettably, it's become difficult to separate fact from fiction when it comes to President Obama sidling up to Iran. It seems the president will go to any lengths to protect his nuclear deal. This amendment would simply hold his Administration to its promise by ensuring that taxpayer dollars cannot be used again for the same purpose. We've given the terror-sponsoring Iranian regime enough concessions at the risk of our security; we should not further subsidize its enrichment activity by making repeated purchases of this material.”
 
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest warned on April 27 that “ideologically motivated policy riders are not appropriate for appropriations bills.” He said that Senator Cotton “is certainly no expert” on heavy water. “I'm confident that he couldn’t differentiate heavy-water from sparkling water. His focus is on undermining the effective implementation of this agreement that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” 
 
On April 27, Senate Democrats blocked the $37.5 billion funding bill to prevent a vote on Cotton’s amendment. The vote to shut off debate on the bill was 50 to 46, and 60 votes would have been needed to advance the bill. Cotton said he offered to subject his amendment to a 60-vote threshold. “The Cotton amendment as written is a poison pill,” Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) said after a meeting with his colleagues. “The Cotton amendment on this bill would make it veto-bait.”
 
The Obama administration, backed by most Senate Democrats, argued that it would be better for the United States to buy the heavy water than allow it go on the open market, given the potential proliferation risk. “We know it’s politically charged, we also know it’s not in the best national security interests of the United States for us to let this heavy water go into the global market,” Durbin said.
 
On April 28, Cotton criticized Press Secretary Earnest for questioning his knowledge of the nuclear deal with Iran. “This guy at the White House may think it's a laughing matter to subsidize Iran's nuclear program, but I don't. I think it's a very serious matter,” Cotton said on MSNBC's “Morning Joe.” He argued that the United States is not obligated to take Iran’s heavy water or “provide U.S. taxpayer dollars to Iran's nuclear program for that heavy water.”
 
Russia may become the second buyer of Iran’s nuclear material. On April 25, Moscow announced that it was planning to buy 40 metric tons of heavy water.
 
The following are excerpted remarks by State Department Press Office Director Elizabeth Trudeau on the purchase from an April 22 briefing.
 
MS TRUDEAU: This heavy water will fulfill a substantial portion of the U.S. domestic demand this year for industry and domestic research applications. This material is not radioactive and does not present safety concerns. This transaction provides U.S. industry with a critical product while also enabling Iran to sell some of its excess heavy water, as contemplated in the JCPOA. Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA meant this material had already been removed from Iran, ensuring it would not be used to support the development of a nuclear weapon.
 
Our purchase of the heavy water means it will instead be used for critically important research in non-nuclear industrial requirements here in the United States. We expect the heavy water to be delivered to the U.S. in the coming week, initially stored at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and then resold to – at commercially reasonable prices to domestic commercial and research buyers.
 
So on technical details about what heavy water is and details on its implementation, I’m going to refer you to the Department of Energy, but I will say heavy water is used in the development, production, and sale of compounds used in chemistry, biomedical and diagnostic research, environmental analysts, and physics.
 
So I know you had a question too on U.S. domestic reaction, and our response would be no. This was actually an allowable event that happened. So the U.S. was under no obligation to purchase heavy water from Iran, nor is it obligated to do so in the future, but the JCPOA required Iran to reduce its heavy water inventory below the 130 metric ton limit. One way to do that was to sell the excess to countries or companies. And I’d just note in the future it’s possible other countries may wish to purchase that. This was a purchase that was arranged through the Department of Energy for that.
 
QUESTION: House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce was – is among those who have been critical, saying the deal actually encourages Iran to produce more heavy water to sell. House Speaker Paul Ryan also had some criticism, saying it seemed to be part of an effort to sweeten the nuclear deal with Iran and would directly subsidize Iran’s nuclear program. Is there a State concern about this criticism in that the U.S. may be seen as enabling Iran with this purchase?
 
MS TRUDEAU: No. This limit ensures Iran cannot stockpile heavy water for use in a covert reaction. The IAEA’s monitoring and verification measures will ensure that we know if Iran attempts to exceed the limit or divert any of the heavy water for illicit production of plutonium. So, no.
QUESTION: But aren’t you concerned that some of this “under 10 million” will fund terrorist activities in the future?
 

MS TRUDEAU: So we’ve talked about this quite extensively from this podium, as well as elsewhere, Lucas. No one’s blind to Iran’s unhelpful activities in the region. On this, what we can say is this was a commercial transaction, it was allowable, it fills a need here in the United States. 

 

 

Zarif Calls on UN to Intervene with US

Iran has called on the United Nations to intervene with the U.S. government over two court rulings that held Iran financially responsible for terrorist attacks. On April 28, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sent a letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon calling on him to convince the United States to release frozen Iranian assets and stop interfering with Iranian financial transactions outside the United States. “I wish to call on Your Excellency to lend your good offices in order to induce the US Government to adhere to its international obligations,” wrote Zarif. He warned that the court decisions would have “catastrophic implications” and “will cause systematic erosion” of the principle of state immunity. He cited two recent cases:
 
· In Re Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001, 03-cv-09848, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan): On March 9, Judge George Daniels ordered Iran to pay more than $10.5 billion to families of people killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and to a group of insurers. Daniels found that Iran failed to defend claims that it assisted the hijackers and was therefore liable for damages.
 
· Bank Markazi, aka the Central Bank of Iran, v. Deborah Peterson, et al., U.S. Supreme Court: On April 20, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a judgement that held Iran financially responsible for terrorist attacks dating back to the 1983 Marine Corps barracks bombing in Beirut. The court ruled 6-2 in favor of more than 1,300 relatives of the 241 service members who were killed in Lebanon as well as other victims of attacks that courts have linked to Iran, such as the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia.
 
Zarif also warned that Iran reserves the right to take counter-measures. He argued that the United States “must pay long overdue reparations to the Iranian people” for overthrowing Iran’s democratically elected government in 1953, supporting the shah, helping Saddam Hussein in the 1980-1988 war with Iraq, and the shooting down of an Iranian civil airliner in 1988.
 
On April 29, U.S. State Department spokesperson Mark Toner acknowledged that the United States was aware of the letter. “To the extent that this letter was prompted by the recent Supreme Court decision in the Bank Markazi v. Peterson case, we believe the U.S. laws and the application of those laws by the courts ... comport with international law,” he said.
 
The following is the full text of Zarif’s letter to the secretary general.
 
Excellency,
 
In the past few years, the United States has persistently engaged in a dangerous practice of defying international law and order by allowing, in fact instigating, private litigants to bring civil action before U.S domestic courts against sovereign states, including the Islamic Republic of Iran. Trials have been organized in absentia; self-serving judgments have been obtained in default; and claims have been laid on the assets of the Iranian people. Knowing full well that no self-respecting nation, certainly not Iran, would ever subject itself to the jurisdiction of another state's domestic courts, they have amassed billions of dollars in unlawful and factually flawed default judgements against the Islamic Republic of Iran and its organs.
 
The U.S Executive branch illegally freezes Iranian national assets; the U.S Legislative branch legislates to pave the ground for their illicit seizures; and the U.S Judicial branch issues rulings to confiscate Iranian assets without any base in law or fact.  The veracity and credibility of the US justice system -- when it comes to its treatment of Iran -- can be measured by the recent ruling of a New York District Court that ordered Iran to pay more than $10.5 billion in damages to the families of the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, claiming against all evidence and common sense that Iran "provided active support to the attackers." Such absurd allegation – not by a politician but regrettably by a so-called court of law—contradicts even public statements as well as findings – open or sealed -- of investigations by the US Government and US Congress. Ironically the same court absolved the real culprits of any responsibility and ruled against Iran, which was the victim of the same terrorist group and has consistently been in the forefront of international efforts against them and their Takfiri extremist siblings.
 
In sum, in blatant contravention of the most fundamental principles of international law – not to mention facts, the United States has devised a pseudo-legal scheme that subjects Iranian assets held in US and foreign banks, and even Iranian cultural property held on loan by American museums, to spurious rulings and unlawful collection proceedings.
 
Excellency,
 
The principle of state immunity is one of the cornerstones of the international legal order and a rule of customary international law, most recently codified in the United Nations Convention on Jurisdictional Immunities of States and Their Property. Its primacy has also been recognized by the community of nations, all legal systems and the International Court of Justice. With the sole possible permissible exception of "commercial activity", claims against a sovereign state must be pursued either in accordance with mechanisms provided for in bilateral or multilateral agreements or through international courts or tribunals, as appropriate. 
 
It is a matter of grave concern that the United States Congress, along with other branches of the U.S Government, seem to believe that they can easily defy and breach the fundamental principle of state immunity, by unilaterally waiving the immunity of states and even Central Banks in total contravention of the international obligations of the United States and under a groundless legal doctrine that the international community does not recognize.
In view of the detrimental effect of such practices on the integrity of the international public order, I wish to alert you and through you the UN general membership about the catastrophic implications of the US blatant disrespect for state immunity, which will cause systematic erosion of this fundamental principle.
 
The Islamic Republic of Iran rejects the unlawful decisions by US courts in this respect, including the ruling that authorized the confiscation of nearly 1.8 billion US Dollars of assets belonging to the Central Bank of Iran to the benefit of private litigants. The entire court proceedings which led to the recent ruling has been fake and phony and a travesty of justice in every sense of law, jurisdiction, merit, fact and process. This clearly constitutes an international wrongful act and entails international responsibility for the Government of the United States, for which it will be held accountable. The Islamic Republic of Iran holds the United States Government responsible for this outrageous robbery, disguised under a court order, and is determined to take every lawful measure to restore the stolen property and the interest accrued to it from the date it was blocked by the United States.
 
It is in fact the United States that must pay long overdue reparations to the Iranian people for its persistent hostile policies. Such wrongful US policies and actions against Iranian people, entailing international responsibility, are self-admitted and based on solid historical evidence and not absurd fabrications. They include overthrowing the democratically elected government of Iran in 1953, actively supporting and sponsoring the ensuing brutal dictatorship and aiding and abetting in its crimes – including tortures by US-created and US-trained SAVAK -- against the Iranian people from 1953 to 1979, actively providing intelligence, support and comfort to Saddam Hussein in his war of aggression against Iran from 1980 to 1988, including provision of AWACS reconnaissance to aid Saddam’s use of chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers and civilians – which amounts to a war crime , deliberate shooting of an Iranian civil airliner in 1988, killing all 290 passengers, and the plundering of Iranian assets held abroad. The Islamic Republic of Iran reserves the right to take appropriate lawful action, including necessary and proportionate countermeasures, to restore and protect the rights of the Iranian people against such persistent unlawful conduct by the United States.
 
Mr. Secretary-General,
 
There has seldom been so much at stake for the rule of law, the proper functioning and integrity of the international legal and financial systems, and the prevalence of dialogue and accommodation over coercion and confrontation.  In view of the detrimental effects of continued unlawful conduct by the United States, I wish to call on Your Excellency to lend your good offices in order to induce the US Government to adhere to its international obligations, put an end to the violation of the fundamental principle of state immunity, release all frozen Iranian assets in US banks and cease and desist forthwith from any interference with Iranian commercial and financial transactions outside the United States, in compliance with its general international obligations and its obligations under the JCPOA.
 
I will be grateful if this letter were circulated as a document of the General Assembly under agenda item entitled “Rule of law at the national and international levels” and of the Security Council.
 
Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.
 
M. Javad Zarif

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran 

 

Photo credit: Robin Wright

 

UN Experts: Iran Denying Medical Treatment to Political Prisoners

On April 27, a group of U.N. human rights experts released a statement criticizing Iran’s denial of adequate medical treatment to political prisoners. They cited the case of physicist Omid Kokabee, who is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for alleged “connections with a hostile government.” Diagnosed with kidney cancer, his right kidney was recently surgically removed. The U.N. experts said that the procedure could have been avoided if he had received proper treatment at an earlier stage.  

 
The following is the full text of the statement.
 
GENEVA (27 April 2016) – A group of United Nations human rights experts* today warned that over a dozen political prisoners in Iran, including some prominent human rights defenders, lawyers and political activists, are at risk of death in detention due to their worsening health conditions and the continued refusal by the Iranian authorities to provide them with medical treatment.
 
“The condition of several prisoners of conscience with serious health problems has been exacerbated by their continued detention and by repeated refusals to allow their access to the medical facilities and treatment they so urgently require,” the experts said.
 
“The denial of medical care, physical abuse, either in overcrowded prisons or in solitary confinement and other forms of torture and ill-treatment exposes prisoners to risk of serious injuries and death,” they said noting that “unfortunately, Iranian prisons are no strangers to such tragedies, many of which could have been avoided if authorities exercised proper care.”
 
The UN experts highlighted the cases of political prisoners Mohammad Hossein Rafiee Fanood and Kamal Foroughi, human rights defender Nargis Mohammadi, lawyer Abdulfattah Soltani, blogger Hossein Ronaghi Maleki, religious figure Sayed Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi and experimental laser physicist Omid Kokabee.
 
Mr. Kokabee was arrested in January 2011 upon his return from studies in the United States and is currently serving a ten-year prison sentence for his alleged ‘connections with a hostile government’. He was diagnosed with kidney cancer and recently underwent surgery to remove his right kidney, a procedure that could have been avoided, had he been provided with adequate and timely access to proper treatment at an earlier stage. When the care is ultimately provided, as Mr Kokabee’s case, patients are often transferred to and from prisons chained to their beds.
 
“The situation of these prisoners and the continued disregard for their health and well-being by the Iranian authorities is completely unacceptable,” the experts stressed. “This is especially the case given that allegedly all of them have been arrested, detained and convicted purely for their peaceful exercise of their fundamental freedoms and rights.”
 
“We urge the authorities to consider the release of Mr Kokabee and other political prisoners on medical or humanitarian grounds and to ensure their well-being by facilitating regular access to medical care,” they said.
 
The human rights experts reminded the Iranian Government of its obligations under international standards to respect the prisoners’ right to health and to ensure their humane treatment. “Failure to provide adequate medical care to prisoners is in breach of Iran’s international human rights obligations and domestic standards,” they underscored.
 
“We have repeatedly drawn the attention of the Iranian authorities to allegations related to the denial of access to medical care and to substandard conditions of detention and urged them to embark on a more comprehensive prison reform. We regret that the Government has so far failed to properly investigate these allegations and take the necessary measures,” the human rights experts concluded.
 
(*) The experts: Mr. Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran; Mr. Dainius Pūras, UN Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; Mr. Juan E. Méndez, UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Mr. Maina Kiai, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; and Mr. Seong-Phil Hong, Chair-Rapporteur of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

 

 

Khamenei Comments on US, Gulf States, Shakespeare

The tweets from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei covered a full range of subjects in April 2016, from a celebration on the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death to angry accusations about the United States undermining the Iran nuclear deal. He also used his Twitter account to comment on tensions with Saudi Arabia and defend Hezbollah. The following is a collection of his monthly tweets.
 
The United States and Western Powers
 

 

 
Response to Organization of Islamic Cooperation Statement
 
Tensions between Iran and other Islamic countries, especially Saudi Arabia, erupted at the 13th summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) of 57 countries. The final communique, issued April 15, “deplored Iran’s interference” in the affairs of other countries and its “continued support for terrorism,” including the Lebanese group Hezbollah. Iran held Saudi Arabia responsible for the statement.
 
Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States
 
 
Development and Islamic Civilization
 

Anti-Iran Moves in Congress

Congress
Since late 2015, U.S. lawmakers have introduced more than a dozen legislative measures against Iran. Most have yet to pass the House or Senate, and the bills largely target areas outside the scope of the nuclear deal, such as ballistic missiles, terrorism, and human rights. But President Obama has promised to veto legislation – like the Iran Terror Finance Transparency Act – that the administration believes could potentially derail the deal.
 
Congress has long sought to establish greater oversight of the nuclear deal. In May 2015, lawmakers overwhelmingly passed legislation sponsored by Bob Corker (R-TN) that required Congress to review and vote on the agreement. The deal came to a vote in September 2015. But Congress ultimately failed to block it, as Senate Democrats filibustered a resolution of disapproval and prevented it from coming to a vote. The following is a rundown of Congressional actions on Iran since late 2015.
 
Amendment to the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016 (H.R.2028)
 
Status: Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) filed the amendment to the energy and water bill on April 25, 2016. On April 27, the Senate voted 50-46 against ending debate on the bill with the amendment, considered by many Democrats to be a "poison pill."
 
Content: Cotton’s amendment would prohibit the purchase of heavy water from Iran. He proposed the amendment three days after the U.S. Department of Energy announced it would buy 32 metric tonnes of heavy water from Iran. The Islamic Republic is required to reduce its stockpile of heavy water under the nuclear deal, which it can do by selling or disposing of the material.
 
On April 26, Senator Cotton released the following statement related to the heavy water purchase: "The Obama Administration stated that this purchase is a one-time deal and the United States will not become a repeat customer of Iran's over-production of heavy water. Regrettably, it's become difficult to separate fact from fiction when it comes to President Obama sidling up to Iran. It seems the president will go to any lengths to protect his nuclear deal. This amendment would simply hold his Administration to its promise by ensuring that taxpayer dollars cannot be used again for the same purpose. We've given the terror-sponsoring Iranian regime enough concessions at the risk of our security; we should not further subsidize its enrichment activity by making repeated purchases of this material."
 
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that “We’ve made clear our commitment to a principle that ideologically motivated policy riders are not appropriate for appropriations bills.” He indicated that President Obama would veto the bill if it were passed with Cotton's amendment.
 
The U.S. Financial System Protection Act (H.R. 4992)
 
Status: The bill was introduced in the House by Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) on April 19, 2016. 
 
Content: The bill codifies regulations around financial transactions involving Iran and restricts the use of the U.S. dollar in facilitating trade with Iran - including both direct dollar transactions and workarounds.
 
No Dollars for Iran Act (H.R. 4898) 
 
Status: The bill was introduced by Representative David Trott (R-MI) on April 11, 2016 and referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. It is cosponsored by Representatives Randy K. Weber (R-TX) and Dan Benishek (R-MI). 
 
Content: The bill prohibits the Department of Treasury from issuing licenses permitting dollar clearing outside of the U.S. for transactions directly or indirectly involving or benefitting the Government of Iran or Iranian persons.
 
Preventing Iran’s Access to United States Dollars Act of 2016 (S. 2752) 
 
Status: The bill, sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), was introduced in the Senate on April 6, 2016 and referred to the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs committee on the same day.  It is co-sponsored by Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL), Kelly Ayotte (R-HN), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Shelley Capito (R-WV), and David Perdue (R-GA).  
 
Content: The bill prohibits the Government of Iran or Iranian persons from certain financial transactions involving U.S. dollars, and proposes sanctions in the event that those transactions are facilitated. It specifies that the President cannot issue a license permitting an offshore U.S. dollar clearing system or provide U.S. dollars for any offshore U.S. dollar clearing system for transactions that involve Iran. President Obama has denied having plans to facilitate these kinds of transactions with Iran. 
 
Iran Cyber Sanctions Act of 2016 (S. 2756) 
 
Status: The bill was introduced on April 6, 2016 by Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.  
 
Content: The bill requires the president to report to Congress any activities conducted by Iranian persons undermining U.S. cybersecurity. In addition, the president would be required to submit the names of these individuals to the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Specially Designated Nationals List, which blocks individuals from doing business with U.S. individuals and freezes their assets within U.S. jurisdiction. If the president chooses to not include a name on this list, s/he must report to Congress why the individual was not included. 
 
Iran Financial System Access Limitation Act of 2016 (S. 2757) 
 
Status: The bill was introduced on April 6, 2016 by Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. 
 
Content: The bill prohibits granting Iran access to U.S. dollars. It proposes sanctions for any foreign financial institutions that facilitate such arrangements. It also prohibits the president from issuing licenses to offshore dollar clearing entities that would conduct transactions with Iran in U.S. dollars, and requires the president to block all property or property interests in the U.S. of institutions engaging in the aforementioned behavior. In addition, a U.S. person may not process any transfer of funds to or from Iran in a U-turn transaction.  
 
Iran Ballistic Missile Sanctions Act of 2016 (S.2725 and H.R. 4815)
 
Status: The bill was introduced in the Senate on March 17, 2016 by Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and 11 other Republican Senators. On March 21, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) and three other Republican co-sponsors introduced an identical bill in the House. 
 
Content: The bill imposes new sanctions against anyone that knowingly aids Iran’s ballistic missile program, requires new sanctions against entities owned 25 percent or more by Iran’s key ballistic missile organizations, and requires the president to certify that perople listed in U.N. Security Council Resolutions are not engaged in activities related to ballistic missiles. It also imposes sanctions on persons involved in sectors of Iran’s economy that support, directly or indirectly, Iran’s ballistic program.

Iran Terrorism and Human Rights Sanctions Act of 2016 (S.2726)
 
Status: The bill was introduced in the Senate on March 17, 2016 by Mark Kirk (R-IL) and 15 other Republican Senators. It was read twice and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.
 
Content: The bill imposes new sanctions on the IRGC and Mahan Air, codifies restrictions on Iran’s access to the U.S. financial system, and imposes new sanctions on Iran for its human rights abuses. 
 
The Iran Terror Finance Transparency Act (H.R.3662)
 
Status: The bill, sponsored by Steve Russell (R-OK) and 20 other Republicans, was introduced in the House on Oct. 1, 2015. The House voted and passed the legislation on Jan. 13, 2016, but Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) nullified the vote since 137 representatives were not present. A second vote was held on February 2, which passed the House with a vote of 246-181. A total of 243 Republicans and three Democrats voted in favor, and 181 Democrats voted against. On February 3, the bill was referred to the Senate Banking Committee.
 
Content: The legislation prohibits removing sanctions on certain entities until the president confirms that they have no link to ballistic missiles or terrorism. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) supported the legislation, arguing that “This bill is about ensuring that the president keeps his promise.” But Foreign Affairs Committee member Eliot Engel (D-NY), who opposed the nuclear deal, argued that the legislation would instead “establish an impossible standard for the president.” President Obama has threatened to veto the bill, fearing that it could disrupt implementation of the nuclear deal.
 
IRGC Terrorist Sanctions Act of 2015 (H.R. 3693)
 
Status: The bill was introduced in the House on Feb. 12, 2016 by Ted Poe (R-TX).
 
Content: The bill directs the Department of the Treasury to report to Congres on whether the IRGC should be considered a terrorist organization and whether an organization with IRGC members on the board of directors should be considered an entity controlled by the Iranian government. 
 
North Korea and Iran Sanctions Act (S.2485)
 
Status: The bill was introduced in the Senate on Feb. 3, 2016 by John Thune (R-SD) and four other Republican cosponsors. 
 
Content: This bill requires the President to reinstate all sanctions against Iran that were waived or suspended as part of the final nuclear deal if the Director of National Intelligence certifies that Iran has acquired, or is attempting to acquire, nuclear weapons technology from North Korea.
 
Reaffirming the right for the United States to use all available options, including the use of military force, to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon (H.Res.600)
 
Status: Seth Moulton (D-MA), Jospeh Kennedy (D-MA), Reid Ribble (R-WI), and two others introduced the resolution in the House on Feb. 3, 2016.
 
Content: It reaffirms the right to use military force to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, emphasizing that the nuclear deal does not preclude additional sanctions on Iran for terrorism, ballistic missile, or human rights violations.
 
A bill to prohibit the use of funds to make payments to Iran relating to the settlement of claims brought before the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal until Iran has paid certain compensatory damages awarded to United States persons by United States courts (S. 2452) 
 
Status: The bill was introduced by Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) on January 20, 2016. It is cosponsored by Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Pat Toomey (R-PA), David Perdue (R-GA), and John Thune (R-SD). It was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. 
 
Content: The bill prevents the United States from making any payment to Iran relating to the settlement of any claim before the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal, until Iran pays certain compensatory damages awarded by federal or state court judgments relating to international acts of terrorism carried out by Iran. 
 
The Zero Tolerance for Terror Act (H.R.4333), the Iran Ballistic Missile Prevention and Sanctions Act of 2016 (H.R.4342), and other actions on ballistic missiles
 
Status: Joseph Kennedy (D-MA), Ted Deutch (D-FL), and five other lawmakers introduced the Zero Tolerance for Terror Act in the House on January 6. Kennedy, along with John Delaney (D-MD) and 11 other lawmakers, also introduced the Iran Ballistic Missile Prevention and Sanctions Act of 2016 on January 7.
 
Content: Both pieces of legislation called on the U.S. Treasury to impose sanctions on Iran for ballistic missile activities. They were part of a larger push by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to urge President Obama to take action after alleged Iranian ballistic missiles launches in October and November 2015. Ballistic missiles restrictions are not included in the final nuclear deal, but a 2010 U.N. Security Council resolution prohibits Iran from testing ballistic missiles.
 
“Condemnations of Iran's blatant disregard for its international obligations are not enough,” wrote Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and 35 other Republican senators in December 2015. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) organized a similar letter signed by 20 other Democrats. “If there are no consequences for this violation, Iran’s leaders will certainly also question the willingness of the international community to respond to violations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and UN Security Council Resolution 2231,” it said.
 
New ballistic missile sanctions were originally set to go into effect on Dec. 30, 2015, but the Obama administration delayed them for two weeks. Iranian officials warned that the supreme leader would view new sanctions as a violation of the nuclear deal, but U.S. officials denied that Iran’s defiance played a part in the delay. Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said that finalizing sanctions “is not something that we would negotiate with the Iranian government.” Behind the scenes, Secretary of State John Kerry was in the midst of negotiating a prisoner swap with Iran that resulted in the release of four Americans. On January 17 – right after the nuclear deal was implemented – the U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on 11 individuals and entities for supporting Iran’s ballistic missile program.
 
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The Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 (H.R.158)
 
Status: Candace Miller (R-MI) and Michael McCaul (R-TX) introduced the bill in the House on Jan. 6, 2015. It was amended and passed on Dec. 8, 2015 with a vote of 407-19 as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act. The next day, the bill was received in the Senate.
 
Content: The bill was proposed by Congress to make it more difficult for terrorists who hold E.U. or other citizenships to enter the United States. Citizens of 38 countries, including many E.U. states, do not need visas to travel to the United States. But the new measure bars citizens of those countries who are also dual nationals of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Sudan from participating in the program. House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul said on December 22 that “Our message to them [Iran] is clear: as long as you fuel networks of terror, individuals connected to your country will not be allowed to enter ours without closer scrutiny.”
 
Iranian officials condemned the bill. “This visa-waiver thing is absurd,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told The New Yorker. “Has anybody in the West been targeted by any Iranian national, anybody of Iranian origin, or anyone travelling to Iran?” Secretary of State John Kerry, however, noted that the Obama administration can waive the visa requirements so as not to “interfere with the legitimate business interest of Iran.”  
 
Although the bill passed the House with a bipartisan majority, some lawmakers opposed the bill on the grounds that it could have negative consequences for journalists and aid workers. Barbara Lee (D-CA) argued that the legislation would “allow for the arbitrary discrimination of individuals based on their nationality.”
 
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Urging the President and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to submit to Congress the text of all side agreements entered into between the IAEA and Iran with respect to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (H.R.553)
 
Status: Co-sponsored by Ryan Zinke (R-MT) and 30 other representatives, the bill was introduced in the House on Dec. 3, 2015.
 
Content: The bill requires Congress to receive the text of “side agreements” between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as a condition for the Congress to approve funding for the agency. In July 2015, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano and Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi agreed on a road map to resolve “past and present outstanding issues” on Iran’s nuclear program. The agreement – which was not made public – culminated in a final report released in December 2015.
 
Some U.S. lawmakers have insisted that Congress have access to the full text of the agreement between Iran and the IAEA. “Congress has the constitutional responsibility to control the power of the purse,” Zinke said in December 2015. “If we are expected to foot the bill for these side deals, we should know what measures are included in them.”

Iran Policy Oversight Act of 2015 (S.2119)
 
Status: The bill was introduced in the Senate on Oct. 1, 2015, sponsored by Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and seven other Democrats.
 
Content: The legislation requires the President to report to Congress every 180 days on two topics: Iranian nuclear research and development, and how Iran uses funds received as part of sanctions relief.
 
Ending Iran's Nuclear Weapon Program Before Sanctions Relief Act of 2015 (S.2429 and H.R.4344)
 
Status: The bill was introduced in the Senate on Dec. 18, 2015 by Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and 12 other Republicans, and in the House on Jan. 7, 2016 by Mike Pompeo (R-KS), Peter Roskam (R-IL), and two other Republicans.
 
Content: It requires the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to submit a report to Congress on the military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program. It also calls for delaying sanctions relief until 90 days after the report is submitted, or once the DNI, State Department, Department of Energy, and Department of Defense certify that Iran has ceased all military dimensions of its nuclear activities.
 
Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps Sanctions Implementation and Review Act (H.R.4312)
 
Status: The bill was introduced on Dec. 18, 2015, by Brad Sherman (D-CA) and five other Democrats.
 
Content: The legislation proposes amendments to the Iran Threat Reduction and Syrian Human Rights Act of 2012, which would prohibit transactions with foreigners who knowingly engage in deals with the Revolutionary Guards or other sanctioned entities if the property involved is linked to the United States.
 
Quarantining the Ayatollah's State-Sponsored Aggression and Militancy (QASSAM) Act (H.R.4258)
 
Status: The bill was introduced in the House on Dec. 15, 2015 by Peter Roskam (R-IL) and three other Republicans.
 
Content: It aims to impose sanctions on any entity – either within the United States or owned by an American – if the Revolutionary Guards own at least 20 percent of it.

IRGC Sanctions Act (H.R.4257)
 
Status: The bill was introduced on Dec. 15, 2015 by Devin Nunes (R-CA) and 19 other Republicans.
 
Content: It seeks to amend three existing laws to require congressional approval to remove a country as a state sponsor of terrorism.
 
IRGC Terrorist Designation Act (H.R.3646 and S.2094)
 
Status: The bill was introduced in the House on Sept. 29, 2015 by Michael McCaul (R-TX) and 13 other lawmakers and in the Senate by Ted Cruz (R-TX).
 
Content: It calls upon the State Department to designate the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization.
 
Justice for Victims of Iranian Terrorism Act (H.R.3457 and S.2086)
 
Status: The bill was introduced in the House on Sept. 9, 2015 by Patrick Meehan (R-PA) and two other Republicans and in the Senate on Sept. 28, 2015 by Pat Toomey (R-PA) and two other Republicans. It passed the House by a vote of 251-173 on Oct. 1, 2015.
 
Content: It calls for preventing sanctions relief until Iran addresses judgments in the cases of U.S. victims of Iran-backed terror groups.

Commission to Verify Iranian Nuclear Compliance Act (H.R. 3741)
 
Status: The bill was introduced in the House on Oct. 9, 2015, by Gerald Connolly (D-VA) and nine other cosponsors.
 
Content: The bill establishes a commission to verify Iran's compliance with the final nuclear deal and assess the verification and safeguards aspects of the agreement. 

Iran Sanctions Relief Oversight Act of 2015 (S.1682)
 
Status: Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced the bill in the Senate on June 25, 2015, originally pushing to add it as an amendment to the 2016 defense budget. The bill was referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. 
 
Content: The bill extends the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 (ISA), which targets Iran’s nuclear program, ballistic missiles, and human rights violations, through Dec. 31, 2026. The ISA is currently set to expire in December 2016. The bill pitched by Kirk and Menendez has not progressed beyond the Senate Banking Committee, but other lawmakers have also proposed extending ISA. In late January 2016, after Implementation Day, Bob Corker (R-TN) began preparing three pieces of legislation against Iran – one of which was the reauthorization of ISA. Corker argued that renewing ISA is essential for the possibility of “snap back” sanctions if Iran violates the nuclear deal, but the administration has urged Congress to delay renewing the legislation until closer to its expiration date. 
 
State Sanctions Against Iranian Terrorism Act (H.R.4448)
 
Status: The bill was introduced in the House on March 2, 2015 by Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and referred to the House Committee on Financial Services.
 
Content: The bill amends the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010, which allows states to limit or prohibit individuals from investing in Iran’s energy sector. The amendment would restrict investment in all business enterprises in Iran, not just those related to the energy sector, and would lower the investment limit from $20 million to $10 million.   
 
This post has been updated.
 

 

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