WASHINGTON, D.C.– Even though fresh sanctions against Iran were put in place less than two months ago, those measures – as well as last year’s decade-long extension of existing sanctions – were apparently not enough for several U.S. senators. Last Thursday, a bipartisan group of senators led by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced the “Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017,” a bill that would introduce new sanctions against Iran for recent missile tests and “destabilizing actions.” The legislative measure, like its predecessors, also accuses Iran of backing terrorism.
The senators touted the bill’s bipartisan support as a clear sign of the U.S.’ “tough” stance on Iran. For instance, Sen. Corker remarked that the bill “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.”
Sen. Menendez underscored these same themes, speaking to the need for the U.S. to have “one voice” when it comes to “holding Iran account for its continued nefarious actions,” which include Iran allegedly serving as “the leading state sponsor of terrorism.”
Despite the use of the same oft-repeated talking points against Iran, the bill does not seek to re-introduce sanctions lifted by the 2015 Iran nuclear accord, a deal that the Trump administration recently confirmed it would support despite widespread speculation to the contrary. However, the text of the bill itself has yet to be made public, so the specifics of the newly-proposed sanctions remain unknown.
As Menendez stated upon the bill’s release:
“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.”
As has been the case in previous legislation regarding sanctions against Iran, the official reasoning for imposing new sanctions against Iran is easily refuted. For instance, the idea that Iran is the “biggest state sponsor of terror” is easily disproven. As journalist Robert Parry noted in a recent article for MintPress:
“[…]recent complaints about Iranian ‘aggression’ are even more dishonest. Iran has been invited by the sovereign governments of Iraq and Syria to assist in fighting Islamic State and Al Qaeda terrorists in those countries. Under international law, there is nothing illegal about that and it surely does not constitute ‘aggression.’
Saudi Arabia and the State Department have also accused Iran of supporting Houthi rebels in Yemen, although the extent of that assistance is apparently negligible and whatever it is, it is vastly overwhelmed by Saudi Arabia’s massive bombardment of Yemen, a true act of aggression that has killed hundreds if not thousands of civilians and is supported by the Obama administration.”
Of course, other nations that are known to be funding terrorists in Syria, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Israel, have avoided any type of retaliatory action from the U.S. in the form of sanctions or otherwise. Thus, it is safe to say that Iran is not being targeted for allegedly supporting “terrorism” or for ballistic missile tests conducted within in its borders.
Circumstantial evidence, however, seems to imply that the measure was introduced in a bid to please one of the most powerful Israeli lobbying organizations – the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Just a matter of days after the bill was introduced, AIPAC’s annual conference began in Washington D.C., taking place from March 26 to 28. The major theme of this year’s conference is bipartisanship, a theme that was incidentally touted when the new sanctions bill was introduced just a few days earlier. “This is an unprecedented time of political polarization, and we will have a rare bipartisan gathering in Washington,” an AIPAC official told JTA.
It is also noteworthy that last week saw identical bipartisan bills introduced in the Senate and the House that seek to “encourage new areas of cooperation” between Israel and the United States, particularly economically. Such coincidences seem to suggest that the politicians who introduced these bills did so as a gift to the Israeli lobby – not as an attempt to benefit the public interest they are ostensibly elected to serve.