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					Congress and Iran: 2007 in Review and 2008 Outlook

By Carah Ong, Iran Policy Analyst, Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation

Congress devoted a significant amount of time and attention to Iran in 2007, a country that has
proven to be a significant foreign policy challenge to the United States. By and large, Congress
focused its efforts on hyping the threat from Iran and greasing the skids for the Bush
administration to employ stronger punitive measures to coerce Iran into compliance with
demands for an end to the country‟s nuclear enrichment program.

Despite warnings from experts and key Iranian dissidents including Akbar Ganji and Shirin Ebadi,
Congress approved funding for a controversial program to “promote democracy” inside Iran. The
House also passed several measures to expand economic sanctions against Iran and enable a
growing divestment movement. These measures still await Senate debate in 2008 and it is
unclear if they will become public law. Congress also pressed for the Administration to label the
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp and its elite Quds force as terrorist organizations.

On the positive front, growing concern over a potential conflict with Iran led many members of
Congress to introduce resolutions that would reinforce Congressional war-making authority. None
of the resolutions, however, ever came to a stand alone vote in 2007. It is uncertain whether any
will in 2008.

Below is a summary of all major Congressional actions on Iran in 2007.



Iran Provisions in the Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill
On December 19, 2007, Congress passed an omnibus appropriations bill which included the
consolidated State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year
2008. The bill provides for $60 million to be made available for “programs to promote democracy,
the rule of law and governance in Iran.” The explanatory statement accompanying the bill
specifies only two numbers with respect to Iran: $21.8 million for Economic Support Funds (ESF);
and $8 million for the Democracy Fund. The remainder of the $60 million is embedded in other
accounts and amounts are not specified. The final appropriation was nearly halved from
President Bush‟s February 2007 budget request of $108.71 million, including $75 million for
Economic Support Funds (ESF), $28.21 million for the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG)
Voice of America - Persian and Radio Farda programs and $5.5 million in Diplomatic and
Consular Program (D&CP) funds. The Bush administration is likely to again request funds for the
fiscal year 2009 budget, which will be presented to Congress in February 2008.

Iran Provisions in the Defense Authorization Bill
The Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Authorization Act includes a provision the which states that it is
the “Sense of Congress” that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps be designated as a foreign
terrorist organization and placed on the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists established
by the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. The provision was inserted following the
passage of the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment. However, the provision also strongly endorses “the
administration‟s pursuit of a diplomatic approach to address this Iranian threat.”

The Defense Authorization bill also includes a provision based on H.R. 885, which was passed by
the House in June, to designate $50 million to support the establishment of an international
nuclear fuel bank under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The measure
was introduced by Representative Tom Lantos (D-CA), primarily to prevent Iran and other
countries from developing their own indigenous nuclear fuel cycle technology and instead force
the countries to rely on international sources.

House and Senate Conferees of the FY „08 Defense Authorization Bill agreed to drop a provision
in the Senate version of the bill that would have prohibited not more than 75 percent of the
amount authorized from being obligated until the President submitted a report on policy objectives
and United States Strategy regarding Iran. Of particular note, the Conference Report of the FY
‟08 Defense Authorization bill states that the report was submitted. According to a senior
congressional aide, the Bush administration did submit the report in Summer 2007 after they had
seen the provision in the Senate version of the Defense Authorization bill. The senior
congressional aide also said that the report, presumably drafted by the State Department, had an
early 2007 date on it but seemed to have been sitting collecting dust until the administration
decided to send it to Congress. The senior congressional aide said it was possible that after the
State Department drafted the report, the Office of the Vice President or perhaps someone else
refused to clear it because of language about a commitment to diplomacy. There is only a
classified version and Congress has not pursued insisting on an unclassified version because the
whole exercise was "frustrating and the report was not particularly long or substantive, and we
got pulled on to other things."

The FY „08 Defense Authorization bill requires that the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with
the Director of National Intelligence, submit to the Congressional Defense Committees a report
describing and assessing in detail Iran‟s role in Iraq. The report must be submitted within 60 days
after the date of the enactment and every 180 days thereafter. It also provides that the reporting
requirement will terminate when the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Director of
National Intelligence, certifies to the congressional defense committees that Iran has ceased to
provide military support to anti-coalition forces in Iraq.

The Defense Authorization bill also includes a provision stating it is the policy of the United States
to develop and deploy in conjunction with its allies and other nations an effective defense against
Iranian ballistic missiles. The provision was added to the Senate version on July 12, when the
Senate voted 90 to 5 to pass Amendment No. 2024 introduced by Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL).
It should be noted, however, that Congress cut out $85 million in construction funding for the new
missile defense sites in Europe from the Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Appropriations bill. For Fiscal
Year 2009, it likely that the Iranian ballistic missile threat will continue to be the justification for
building a missile defense site in Eastern Europe and funds will once again be requested for
developing and deploying such a system.

The House version of the FY „08 Defense Authorization also contained a provision which would
have prohibited the Department of Defense from procuring goods or services from companies in
violation of the Iran-Syria Nonproliferation Act (Public Law 106–178; 50 U.S.C. 1701). However,
the FY ‟08 Defense Authorization Act Conference Report refused to blacklist violators of the Iran-
Syria Nonproliferation Act.


Congressional Resolutions on War-Making Authority

Heightened concern over a potential conflict with Iran and the possibility that the Bush
administration may construe an authorization for use of force against Iran prompted several
members of Congress to introduce resolutions on war-making authority in 2007.

On January 12, Representatives Walter Jones (R-NC) and Jack Murtha (D-PA) introduced H.J.
Res. 14 requiring Congressional authorization prior to a military attack on Iran, absent a national
emergency created by an attack by Iran. The resolution currently has 66 co-sponsors. It is
unclear whether the co-sponsors will try to introduce it as an amendment to must-pass legislation
in 2008 and also unclear if it will come up for a vote as a stand alone measure.
On January 24, Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) introduced S.Res.39 expressing the sense of the
Senate on the need for approval by the Congress before any offensive military action by the
United States against another nation. Though the resolution does not specifically mention Iran, it
is meant to prevent a military conflict without prior Congressional approval. Senator Byrd
introduced the resolution as amendments to several must-pass bills in 2007, but none of the
amendments ever came to a vote on the floor.

Representative Barbara Lee introduced H.R. 770 on January 31 to prohibit the use of funds to
carry out any covert action for the purpose of causing regime change in Iran or to carry out any
military action against Iran in the absence of an imminent threat, in accordance with international
law and constitutional and statutory requirements for congressional authorization. It was
subsequently referred to the Committees on Foreign Affairs, Armed Services, and Intelligence.
The resolution currently has 19 co-sponsors and unclear if it will come up for a vote in 2008.

On February 5, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) introduced H.Con.Res. 43 which expresses the sense of
Congress that the President should implement Recommendation 9 of the Iraq Study Group
Report and engage directly with Iran and Syria in order to try to obtain their commitment to
constructive policies toward Iraq and other regional issues. The resolution currently has 12 co-
sponsors. It is unclear whether the co-sponsors will try to introduce it as an amendment to must-
pass legislation in 2008 and also unclear if it will come up for a vote as a stand alone measure.

On February 15, Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) introduced S.Con.Res. 13, which expresses the
sense of Congress that the President should not initiate military action against Iran without first
obtaining authorization from Congress. Senator Sanders made several attempts to introduce his
resolution as an amendment to must-pass legislation in 2007, but no amendments ever came to a
vote.

Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) introduced S. 759 on March 5 to prohibit the use of funds for military
operations in Iran without Congressional authorization. It currently has three co-sponsors. On July
19, Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO) introduced H.R. 3119, the House companion legislation to Senator
Jim Webb‟s S. 759. The bill currently has 27 co-sponsors. It is unclear whether the co-sponsors
will try to introduce the bill as an amendment to must-pass legislation in 2008 and also unclear if it
will come up for a vote as a stand alone measure.

On October 25, Representatives Walter Jones (R-NC), Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) and Ron Paul
(R-TX) and Bill Delahunt (D-MA) announced H. J. Res. 53, a bill to restore the constitutional
checks and balances over declaring war. Although the bill does not specifically mention Iran, it is
clearly meant to reassert the Congressional war-making power to prevent such a conflict.

On October 25, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced S. Res. 356, which currently has 13 co-
sponsors, more than any other Senate resolution on preventing war with Iran. Current co-
sponsors are: Akaka, Bingaman, Brown, Byrd, Clinton, Dodd, Dorgan, Feinstein, Johnson,
Murray, Sanders, Stabenow and Whitehouse. The bill has been referred to the Committee on
Foreign Relations, but the Senators may look for other opportunities in 2008 to introduce it to
must pass legislation. Senator Durbin‟s goal is to attract a large group of co-sponsors in order to
make it clear that many Senators are wary of a military conflict with Iran, at least not without prior
Congressional approval.

Presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) introduced S.J.Res. 23 on November 2 to
clarify that the use of force against Iran is “not authorized by the Authorization for the Use of
Military Force Against Iraq, any resolution previously adopted, or any other provision of law.” The
resolution was subsequently referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations and it does not have
any co-sponsors. Representative Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) introduced the House companion
legislation, H.J.Res. 64. It was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs and currently has 16
co-sponsors. Neither resolution is likely to come up for a vote in 2008.
Following the passage of the Kyl-Lieberman amendment to the Fiscal Year 2008 Defense
Authorization bill expressing the sense of Senate that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps
should be labeled a terrorist organization, Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) initiated and sent a letter to
Bush signed by 30 senators emphasizing “that no offensive military action would be justified
against Iran without the express consent of Congress.” Meanwhile, Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE)
sent a personal letter to Bush on October 17 embracing a more comprehensive approach, urging
the president to “offer direct, unconditional and comprehensive talks with Iran.”


Sanctions and Divestment Bills
Representative Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced H.R. 2880 to enhance the Iran Sanctions Act by
expanding economic sanctions against Iran to include the importation of refined petroleum. The
bill has currently has 34 co-sponsors and has been referred to the Committees on Foreign Affairs,
Financial Services, Oversight and Government Reform, and Ways and Means. It is unclear
whether the resolution will come up for a vote in 2008.

On July 31, the House passed H.R. 957 by a vote of 415-11. The resolution adds to the list of
those that can be sanctioned for making investments that increase Iran's ability to develop it
petroleum resources.

On July 31, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2347, the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act, by
a vote of 408-6, despite opposition from the Secretaries of State and Treasury. The bill will
establish a federal list of companies that have direct investments in Iran‟s energy sector and
remove specific legal barriers to enable mutual fund and corporate pension fund managers to cut
ties with these listed companies if they choose to do so. The bill also provides federal authority for
state and local governments that choose to divest their public pension funds and calls on the U.S.
government to list companies with more than $20 million invested in Iran's energy sector. The
Senate companion bill, S. 1430, was introduced by Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and Sam
Brownback (R-KS) and subsequently referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban
Affairs. It is unclear whether it will come up for a vote in 2008, but there are forces pushing for its
passage.

On September 25, the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act of 2007, H.R. 1400, was voted on
Suspension and passed 397-16. Four Republicans and 12 Democrats voted against the
measure, with 20 Members not voting. It should be noted that during the floor debate of the bill,
not a single Member of Congress stood up to speak in opposition of the bill. Though the bill
expresses that it is the Sense of Congress that "the United States should use diplomatic and
economic means to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem," the bill focuses on imposing broader
unilateral sanctions without calling for the implementation of a more comprehensive diplomatic
strategy for resolving all outstanding issues with Iran. In other words, the bill focuses on
employing bigger "sticks" in dealing with Iran rather than embracing a comprehensive approach.

Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) introduced H.Con.Res. 257 on November 13. The
resolution expresses concern regarding arms transfers to Iran and Syria by the Russian
Federation and entities in the Russian Federation and urges the President to implement
sanctions against such entities found to be in violation of United States law prohibiting arms
transfers to both countries. The resolution was referred to the House Committee on Foreign
Affairs. It currently has 7 co-sponsors. It is likely that Rep. Ros-Lehtinen will push for a vote on
the resolution in 2008.

Human Rights and Iran
On September 25, H.R.3653, sponsored by Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis (R-FL), to hold the current
regime in Iran accountable for its human rights record and to support a transition to democracy in
Iran, was introduced and referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The bill makes a
direct link "between the state of freedom and democracy within Iran and the efforts of the current
regime of Iran to acquire nuclear weapons and the long-term success of the global war on terror."
Senator Brownback (R-KS) introduced the Senate version of the bill, S. 1534, on May 25, 2007
and it was referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

On October 3, H.Con.Res.203, which condemns the persecution of labor rights advocates in Iran,
was voted on under Suspension of the Rules and passed 418-1. The resolution was then referred
to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. It is unclear whether the resolution will come to a
vote in the Senate in 2009.


Miscellaneous Congressional Resolutions Taking a Hard Line on Iran
On January 25, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced S. 387, a bill to prohibit the sale by the
Department of Defense of parts for F-14 fighter aircraft. Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ)
introduced the House companion legislation, H.R. 1441 on March 6. The House passed the
resolution on June 11 and it was referred back to the Senate Committee on Armed Services. The
bill is unlikely to come up for a vote in the Senate in 2008.

Representative Jim Saxton introduced H.R. 1324 on March 5 to urge the Secretary of State to
designate the Quds Force, a unit of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, as a foreign
terrorist organization. The resolution has 12 co-sponsors, but it is unlikely to come up for a vote in
2008 following the announcement on October 25 by the Departments of State and Treasury of
their decision to label the Quds force a terrorist organization as part of an unprecedented
package of sanctions.

Following the Iranian capture of British soldiers in the Shatt al Arab waterway on March 23, the
House passed H.Res. 267 on March 27 which condemned the seizure and called for the
immediate, safe, and unconditional release of the soldiers. The Senate passed a similar
resolution, S.Res. 136, on March 29

On May 24, the Senate passed S.Res. 214, a resolution calling for the immediate release of
Iranian-American scholar Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, who had been detained by the government of Iran
since December 2006. On June 5, the House passed a similar resolution, H.Res. 430 by a vote of
411-0. The resolution called on the government of Iran to immediately and unconditionally release
not only Dr. Esfandiari but all five dual Iranian-American citizens including Ms. Parnaz Azima, Mr.
Kian Tajbakhsh, Mr. Ali Shakeri, and a fifth unnamed individual, all of whom had been detained
by the Iranian government under charges of violating national security. The Iranian government
detained the individuals because of a growing fear of the prospect of a “velvet revolution” funded
by the U.S. through the so-called democracy assistance program. All of the individuals were
released from prison by September.

On June 20, the House passed H.Con.Res.21 by a vote of 411-2. The resolution calls on the
United Nations Security Council to charge Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with violating
the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and United
Nations Charter because of his calls for the destruction of the State of Israel. The resolution was
subsequently sent to the Senate and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. It is unlikely
to come up for a vote in the Senate in 2008.

On September 27, Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) introduced H.Res.690 and the bill was referred to the
House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The resolution expresses the grave concern of the House
of Representatives for Iran and Syria's continued and systematic violations of UN Resolutions
1701 and 1559. This bill expresses concern over Syrian and Iranian interference in Lebanon,
particularly in supporting Hezbollah, and calls on Hezbollah to release the Israeli soldiers and for
all militias in Lebanon to disband. It expresses "its vigorous support for a democratic Lebanon."

On October 16, Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced H.Con.Res. 235, a resolution which “urges the
Board of Directors of the World Bank to request a policy review of current disbursements to the
Islamic Republic of Iran and to end these disbursements until the International Atomic Energy
Agency certifies the compliance of Iran with resolutions 1696 and 1747 of the United Nations
Security Council and the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.” The resolution also urges
“the United Nations Security Council to order the World Bank to end disbursements to Iran if the
Board of Directors of the World Bank fails to take action on its own.” The resolution has 46 co-
sponsors and was referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on
Financial Services. The resolution may come up for a vote in 2009.

On November 5, after only five minutes of debate and not a single member of Congress
questioning or speaking in opposition, the House of Representatives unanimously adopted by
voice vote H. RES. 435, “Expressing concern relating to the threatening behavior of the Iranian
regime and its leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the activities of terrorist organizations
sponsored by that regime in Latin America.” The resolution was introduced by Rep. Rob Klein (R-
FL) and had 43 co-sponsors when it came up for a vote under the suspension of the rules.


What to Expect in 2008
In August, the Bush Administration announced its intention to sell up to $20 billion in weapons to
Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council countries and justified the move in part as way
to protect allies in the region from a “growing Iranian threat.” Such a deal must be approved by
Congress and it has the authority to block major arms sales by passing a joint resolution of
disapproval. Several House members, including Nadler (D-NY), Weiner (D-NY), Engel (D-NY)
Woolsey (D-CA), Lee (D-CA) and Ferguson (R-NY) announced their intention to try to block the
sale, but so far Congress has not yet taken up the issue. It is possible they could do so, however,
in 2008.

It is likely that Congress will continue to press for further unilateral sanctions on Iran. All of the
sanctions bills passed by the House in 2007 still await Senate approval before they can become
law. Expect to also see new resolutions that would further expand existing sanctions.

Congress and the Bush administration will also likely continue hyping the threat of the Iranian
ballistic missile program and use it as a justification for developing and deploying a missile
defense system in Eastern Europe. Though the funding was cut for Fiscal Year 2008, the
Administration will more than likely request it for 2009 and some members of Congress will work
to ensure it remains in the Defense Appropriations bill.

The release of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran in December gave impetus to a growing
movement of members of Congress calling on the Bush administration to pursue sustained,
direct, unconditional diplomacy with Iran. Congressional efforts in this area should be bolstered
as it has been the key missing strategy for resolving tensions with Iran.

				
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