The White House threatened to veto legislation that blocks sanctions relief to Iran until it pays its bill of court-ordered damages to victims of terrorism.
The Justice for Victims of Iranian Terrorism Act was introduced by Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) earlier this month. The House Rules Committee is marking up the bill today.
“The President may not waive, suspend, reduce, provide relief from, or otherwise limit the application of statutory sanctions with respect to Iran under any provision of law, or refrain from applying any such sanctions pursuant to an agreement described in section 135(a) of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (42 U.S.C. 2160e(a)), until the President has certified to the Congress that the Government of Iran has paid each judgment against Iran,” states the legislation.
That includes claims adjudicated between March 4, 2000, and May 22, 2015.
Judgments that were linked in court to Iranian support or financing include victims of the 9/11 attacks, the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing, the 1983 attack on the Beirut Marine barracks, and numerous other bus bombings, suicide attacks, assassinations and hostage takings.
“Iran should not get a red cent in U.S. sanctions relief until it has paid its victims what they are owed,” Meehan said Sept. 10. “I oppose the Iran deal, but surely we can all agree that Iran should not reap any benefits from the U.S. until it has compensated the families of those whose lives were taken by Iranian terrorism.”
But the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement a short time ago that it “strongly opposes” making Iran pay up, arguing that “obstructing implementation of the JCPOA would greatly undermine our national security interests.”
“It would result in the collapse of a comprehensive diplomatic arrangement that peacefully and verifiably prevents Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and in turn would allow for the resumption of a significantly less constrained Iranian nuclear program, lead to the unraveling of the international sanctions regime against Iran, and deal a devastating blow to America’s credibility as a leader of international diplomacy,” the OMB said. “This would have ripple effects, jeopardizing both the hard work of sustaining a unified coalition to combat Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region and America’s ability to lead the world on nuclear non-proliferation.”
And, the White House reminded the House, terrorism apparently comes second.
“The Administration has consistently made clear that the purpose of the nuclear negotiations, and ultimately the JCPOA, was to address one issue only – the international community’s concerns over Iran’s nuclear program and the need to verifiably prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” the OMB notice continued. “This is the approach with which the United States was able to garner international support for our sanctions and achieve a diplomatic resolution.”
The administration claimed it “continues to work to explore all possible avenues for compensation, but will not do so in a manner that would connect this issue to the JCPOA, thereby jeopardizing its implementation and Iran’s fulfillment of the critical nuclear steps required under the JCPOA.”
President Obama will veto the bill if it makes it through to his desk, the OMB promised.
“As we address our concerns with Iran’s nuclear program through implementation of the JCPOA, the Administration remains clear-eyed and shares the deep concerns of the Congress and the American people about Iran’s support for terrorism,” the White House said. “We will continue to vigorously enforce our sanctions against these activities, none of which have been relieved under the JCPOA, and work closely with our partners in the region to counter them using a range of unilateral and multilateral tools.”
Meehan said “the principle and effect” of his bill “is simple: no sanctions relief unless Iran pays up.”