Senators Introduce Bipartisan Bill Targeting Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Ballistic Missiles

A bipartisan bill targeting Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), its ballistic missile program, and human rights violations was introduced in the Senate on Thursday.

The Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act Of 2017, which was brought forth by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker (R – Tenn.), has seven Republican and seven Democratic sponsors, making it more likely to become law. Of the seven Democrats, five supported the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

A companion bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives.

The legislation contains the following provisions:

New Mandatory Ballistic Missile Sanctions: Imposes mandatory sanctions on persons involved with Iran’s ballistic missile program and those that transact with them.

New Terrorism Sanctions: Applies terrorism sanctions to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and codifies individuals who are currently sanctioned due to Iranian support for terrorism.

Enforcement of Arms Embargo: Requires the president to block the property of any person or entity involved in specific activities related to the supply, sale, or transfer of prohibited arms and related material to or from Iran.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the nuclear with Iran is formally known, includes watered down language concerning Iran’s ballistic missile program. Iran has often defied United Nations Security Council resolution 2231, which implemented the nuclear deal and called on Tehran to avoid testing ballistic missiles. Following an Iranian ballistic missile test in February, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on individuals involved in the program.

The IRGC has helped organize Shiite militias in Iraq, armed and trained Houthi rebels in Yemen, and boosted the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It has been implicated in war crimes and other violations of human rights in relation to these foreign activities.

Despite a UN-imposed arms embargo, Iran continues to ship weapons to its proxies, notably the Houthis and the Lebanon-based terror group Hezbollah.

“This legislation demonstrates the strong bipartisan support in Congress for a comprehensive approach to holding Iran accountable by targeting all aspects of the regime’s destabilizing actions,” Corker said. “These steps will allow us to regain the initiative on Iran and pushback forcefully against this threat to our security and that of our allies.”

“The spirit of bipartisanship of this important legislation underscores our strong belief that the United States must speak with one voice on the issue of holding Iran accountable for its continued nefarious actions across the world as the leading state sponsor of terrorism,” Menendez added. “This legislation was carefully crafted not to impede with the United States’ ability to live up to its commitments under the JCPOA, while still reaffirming and strengthening our resolve by imposing tough new sanctions to hold the Iranian regime accountable for threatening global and regional security. Iran’s leaders must understand once and for all, that unless they change course their situation will only get worse.”

“It’s critical that the United States do more to counter the Iranian regime’s growing missile threats, support for international terrorism and militancy, and systematic abuse of human rights,” Rubio observed. “This bipartisan bill is an important step in the right direction, especially after the flawed Iran nuclear deal, and I look forward to working with the Trump Administration to finally hold Iran accountable for its actions.”

“This bill sets out elements of a strong policy for countering Iran’s destabilizing activities,” Cardin noted. “We must insist on rigorous JCPOA enforcement, which does not prevent us from sanctioning Iran for its support for terrorism, human rights violations, and pursuit of ballistic missiles.”

“The Iranian regime must be held accountable for destabilizing behavior throughout the Middle East and this legislation is a step in that direction,” Casey said. “Under this bipartisan approach, our nation can enforce existing sanctions on Iran and apply new sanctions should the Iranian regime continue its support for terrorism, development of ballistic missiles, and violations of human rights.”

Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, wrote Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal that the nuclear deal gives Iran a pathway to a nuclear weapon, and that non-nuclear sanctions are the only way to prevent Iran from achieving that goal.

First, Mr. Trump must address the Iranian threat the way Ronald Reagan treated the Soviet one. In the early 1980s, Reagan instructed his National Security Council to develop a comprehensive assault to undermine the Soviet Union. The Trump NSC needs a similar plan, one that uses both covert and overt economic, financial, political, diplomatic, cyber and military power to subvert and roll back the Iranian threat. …

Second, the Trump administration, with an assist from Congress, needs to reinvigorate the sanctions regime aimed at Iran’s support for terrorism, ballistic-missile development, human-rights abuses, war crimes, and destabilizing activities in the Middle East. These sanctions need to target, in particular, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which controls strategic areas of Iran’s economy.

Dubowitz pointed out that such “sanctions are fully compliant with the nuclear deal,” as they don’t target Iran’s nuclear program. This point was made by then-Secretary of State John Kerry at a Senate hearing about the nuclear deal in 2015:

We’re not going to come back and just slap [sanctions] on again, but that absolutely does not mean that we are precluded from sanctioning Iranian actors, sectors, as any actions or circumstances warrant. So all of our other sanctions authorities remain in place, they are unaffected by this agreement, and Iran only said, if you read what it says, that they would treat the imposition of new nuclear related sanctions as the grounds to cease performing. But they are clear and we are clear that we have all other kinds of authorities and let me specific on that because it’s important for this whole debate to be clear. Even with the lifting of sanctions after eight years on missiles or five year on arms are the UN sanctions. It’s only the UN sanctions. We still have sanctions. Our primary embargo is still in place. We are still sanctioning them. And, I might add, for those things that we may want to deal with because of their behavior, for instance, Hezbollah, there is a UN resolution, 1701, the prevents the transfer of any weapons to Hezbollah. That will continue and what we need to do is make sure that we’re enforcing it.

[Photo: Cliff / Flickr ]