Congressional Republicans on Thursday unveiled a legislative package that includes the “toughest sanctions” to date on Iran.
The Republican Study Committee (RSC), the largest Republican caucus in Congress, released a policy wish list titled the “RSC National Security Strategy: Strengthening America and Countering Global Threats” that calls for “enhancing the President’s maximum pressure campaign on Iran.”
The United States withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, reimposing sanctions lifted under it, along with enacting new penalties against the Islamic Republic.
Despite the withdrawal, some waivers have been left in place, including one that allows Iran to sell electricity to Iraq.
Under the GOP proposal, Congress would prohibit the lifting of sanctions on Iran without approval from the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Similar provisions were included as part of the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which imposed sanctions on Iran and other U.S. adversaries, as it pertained to sanctions on Russia.
The RSC also calls for the Trump administration to enact U.N. snapback sanctions on Iran that includes permanently extending the U.N. arms embargo on the regime. The administration repeatedly has stated its intent to extend the embargo and even enact the snapback mechanism if the U.S. resolution to do so is, as expected, vetoed at the U.N. Security Council. Russia and China, both of which are party to the 2015 nuclear accord, have objected to the upcoming expected U.S. move.
The GOP plan advocates Congress imposing further sanctions on Iran’s petrochemical, shipping, financial, construction and automotive sectors. It also calls for enacting legislation targeting Iran’s human-rights violations and regional aggression, including in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. And it suggests sanctioning the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX), a European mechanism that the United States has criticized as a way to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran.
“If the E.U. is able to directly enter into transactions with sanctioned entities, U.S. sanctions on Iran have no meaning,” states the proposal, which calls for Congress to pass the Stop Evasion of Iran Sanctions Act, which was introduced in February by Rep. Bryan Steil (R-Wis.).
Additionally, the GOP proposal calls for replacing the 2001 and 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) to “clearly allow the President to respond to both Iranian aggression and terrorist threats such as ISIS and Al Qaeda.”
The new AUMF, according to the plan, should allow the president to militarily combat groups not only already on, but also added, to the U.S. State Department’s list of designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations without having Congress to update the AUMF to include newly-added groups. Democrats have sought to end the AUMFs, and passed resolutions to end both the 2001 and 2002 versions.
Finally, the GOP plan calls for the United States to end all of its assistance towards Lebanon. Congressional Republicans and the State of Israel have been among those who have expressed concerns that U.S. taxpayer funds for the Lebanese Armed Forces have gone toward the U.S.-designated terrorist group and Iranian proxy Hezbollah, which has been documented to work with the LAF. The U.S. State and Defense Departments have been for continuing the aid, while many in the White House advocate halting it.
The RSC plan also includes policy recommendations to combat other U.S. adversaries, including Russia and China.
Whether any of the legislative proposals outlined in the plan could pass Congress is to be determined. RSC chairman Rep. Mike Johnson (D-La.) and Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), head of the RSC’s foreign affairs and national security task force, told The Washington Free Beacon, which first reported on the congressional proposals to combat Iran, that Democrats could support many of the recommendations.
“We’re not doing this for messaging purposes,” Johnson told the outlet. “Many of these things we would expect and should be bipartisan because this is one of these issues that every person who looks at the situation objectively should agree to.”