APN Objections to HR 850

Americans for Peace Now has serious concerns about HR 850, an AIPAC-backed Iran sanctions bill recently introduced in the House of Representatives.

APN is urging House members to refuse to cosponsor HR 850.

Given the gravity of the issues at stake, APN is urging House members to refuse to permit HR 850 to be ramrodded through Congress according to a timetable defined by AIPAC - or any outside group.

We are urging House members to instead call for a serious deliberation process, including committee hearings and markups during which concerns about HR 850 can be aired and deficiencies in the bill can be addressed.

Specific Objections to HR 850

1. The timing of HR 850 undermines efforts to achieve a negotiated solution. More sanctions now, at a time when international negotiations are once again taking shape, send the message that Congress doesn't support a negotiated resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue, putting it at odds with the Obama Administration and leading Israeli security officials. As the New York Times commented on HR 850, "While sanctions are an important element of American strategy, piling more on at this moment could harm, rather than advance, the chances for a negotiated deal with Iran."

2. Sanctions targeting the Iranian people, like those in HR 850, are immoral and ineffective. While smart, targeted sanctions can be a useful element of a broader foreign policy strategy, sanctions targeting the civilian population of Iran are patently immoral, making the imposition of misery and hardship on innocent and vulnerable civilians a U.S. foreign policy goal. Such sanctions are also self-evidently ineffective - not in terms of sowing misery (in that respect they are quite effective), but in terms of causing the regime's collapse or forcing a change in the regime's behavior. Indeed, Israel's former foreign minister, Shlomo Ben Ami, recently wrote: "The diplomacy of sanctions, ostracism and brinkmanship has failed resoundingly." Decades of experience with sanctions of this kind demonstrate they don't work: not in Iran, Iraq, Cuba, or Gaza. The often-cited exception, South Africa, only bolsters this point: in the South African context, such sanctions were adopted in support of a local population fighting for its own self-defined policy goal, rather than as part of an effort to transform the local population into an instrument of a U.S. foreign policy goal.

3. The approach of HR 850 risks undermining international cooperation and consensus on Iran. The sanctions laid out in HR 850 target countries like Turkey, India, South Korea, and China. In doing so, they risk undermining multilateral sanctions efforts - the most important sanctions in terms of convincing Iran to get serious in negotiations - and risk harming international consensus and cooperation in dealing with Iran.

4. HR 850 raises serious concerns about the provision of critical humanitarian goods to Iranian civilians. HR 850 would exacerbate an existing medical crisis in Iran, caused in large part by previous rounds of sanctions, the result of which is a shortage of medications that must be imported for patients with cancer, hemophilia, multiple sclerosis, thalassemia, and certain other grave conditions. The bill does nothing to fix the existing problem and will make it worse by forcing other countries to reduce all commerce with Iran, including food and medicine sales, in order to obtain a sanctions waiver.

5. HR 850 seeks to lower the bar for war. HR 850 recklessly seeks to create an artificial "red line" for military action against Iran. It does so by seeking to force the Obama Administration to shift from a policy predicated on the declaration that Iran will not be permitted to obtain a nuclear weapon, to one predicated on a declaration that Iran will not be permitted to obtain nuclear weapons capability. This vague formulation, which has been previously promoted in Congress by AIPAC and others - and consistently rejected by leading American security experts - clearly seeks to lower the bar for war.

6. HR 850, by seeking to compel the Obama Administration to designate an element of the Iranian government as a "foreign terrorist organization" (FTO), seeks to further lower the bar for war. HR 850 seeks to compel the Secretary of State to designate the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organization, distinct from Iran's existing U.S. designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. If this occurred, it would be the first time the U.S. has designated an element of a sovereign government as an FTO. Past efforts in this same vein have raised concerns that such a designation would effectively constitute an authorization of the use of military force against Iran - including concerns articulated by then-Senator Obama.