Early this month, Congressman Patrick Meehan (R-PA) was joined by Representatives Jackie Walorski (R-IN) and Sean Duffy (R-WI) in introducing H.R. 3457, the Justice for Victims of Iranian Terrorism Act. Today, the White House released a statement threatening to veto the bill, which would tie the hands of the president and prevent him from providing sanctions relief to Iran as outlined in the JCPOA until after Tehran paid "each judgment against Iran" for its role in financing terrorism.
The bill is the latest salvo in a long-running dispute over the collection and payment of Iranian funds to victims of terrorism. The funds outlined in the bill correspond to a "2013 mega-judgement" allowing hundreds of plaintiffs to collect billions from the Iranian Central Bank for its role in the 1983 bombing of the American embassy in Beirut. In August, two dozen of those plantiffs filed suit in New York to prevent the Obama administration from releasing Iranian assets under the JCPOA.
The White House released the following statement on the bill.
The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 3457, which would prevent the United States from implementing its sanctions relief commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) reached between the P5+1 (the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany), the European Union (EU), and Iran by tying the Administration’s ability to fulfill U.S. commitments to non-nuclear issues that are outside the scope of the JCPOA. 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. 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.
By prohibiting actions to provide relief from nuclear-related sanctions on Iran even if Iran meets all of its JCPOA commitments – significantly rolling back and constraining its nuclear program under an unprecedented verification and monitoring regime – H.R. 3457 effectively seeks to renegotiate the commitments reached by all of the P5+1, the EU, and Iran, and endorsed by the UN Security Council. 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. 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 supports efforts by U.S. terrorism victims to pursue compensation, consistent with our national security, and the JCPOA does nothing to impede those efforts. The Administration 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.
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. 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.
The President has made it clear that he will veto any legislation that prevents the successful implementation of the JCPOA. If the President were presented with H.R. 3457, he would veto the bill.
The bill can be read in full below: