Dec 16, 2017, 11:46 PM
News Code: 82765802
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New House bill could endanger Iran nuclear deal

Tehran, Dec 16, IRNA - On December 14th 2017, the US House of Representatives passed a legislation that if becomes law, it could impact the sale of passenger aircrafts to Iran, jeopardizing the Joint Compressive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The bill, H.R. 4324, introduced by Republican Representative Roger Williams, will put additional requirements for the Treasury Department, to issue favorable licensing for the sale of passenger aircrafts. If passed in the Senate, and signed by President Trump, the legislation could make the sale of commercial planes to Iran even more difficult, and the US could even refuse to issue licenses; a move that Iran will most likely interpret as a violation of JCPOA.

Following the signing of the Iran nuclear deal, Obama administration, began in January 2016, to issue licenses on a “case-by case basis” to sell commercial aircrafts to Iran. Iran has since signed an agreement with US based Boeing for 80 commercial planes and with Europe based Airbus for another 100; Airbus has already begun delivering some of the aircrafts. The move by Congress to derail the sale of aircrafts to Iran could endanger Boeing’s $8 billion deal with Iran, despite reassuring statements that the deal is still safe.

Also known as Strengthening Oversight of Iran’s Access to Finance Act, the H.R. 4324 will require the Secretary of Treasury, to certify, no later than 30 days after authorizing a transaction (and every 180 days thereafter), that the transaction will not “benefit” an Iranian person that “has knowingly transported items used for proliferation of weapons mass destruction…. And has knowingly provided transportation services or material support for any persons under Executives Orders 13224, 13882, or 13572….”The language of text is vague and can raise further questions. For example, the word “benefit” can be interpreted in many ways, since it is not clearly defined in the text of the bill. It is further not clear whether the Treasury would stop issuing licenses to Iran Air if for example, it sells a domestic ticket to a person who is on the Treasury Department’s Specially Designated National (SDN) list. Richard Nephew, a sanctions expert for the US negotiations team argues “Just because a terrorist flies on United [Airlines], we don’t typically sanction United for those sorts of things.” This can complicate Treasury Department’s process for issuing licenses.

Given the strong international support for the JCPOA, Congress seems to be reluctant to take any direct action that could jeopardize the Iran nuclear deal. After President Trump decertified Iran’s compliance to the Iran nuclear deal in October, Congress, according to the Iran Nuclear Review Act (INARA) had 60 days to decide whether to re-impose the previously lifted sanctions; nevertheless, it simply did not take any action, in effect, throwing the ball in President Trump’s court. This came after European Union recently sent a delegation to Washington to dissuade congressional leaders from re-imposing the sanctions, which could have led to the collapse of the deal.

The fate of this bill remains to be unknown, since the Republicans have a fragile majority in the Senate, and Democratic senators are reluctant to vote in favor of any bill that could endanger the JCPOA. Republican senators who currently have 52 seats in the Senate, would need eight Democratic senators onboard to pass the legislation, in order to be able to send it to the White House for President Trump’s signature. While it is unlikely at the moment that the bill will actually be enacted to a law, the H.R. 4324 is significant in a sense that it is yet another attempt to torpedo President Obama’s landmark nuclear agreement with Iran. The move can further be interpreted as a strategy to dissuade Airbus and Boeing from doing business with Iran, in effect depriving Iran of the benefits envisioned in the framework of JCPOA. Further, if the bill is enacted to a law, it is possible that the European Union (EU) will enact countermeasures to protect its legitimate businesses with Iran; a move that can further distance the EU from the United States.

*Sina Azodi is an Iranian Ph.D. student in Political Science and a researcher at University of South Florida’s Center for Strategic and Diplomatic Studies. He focuses on Iran’s foreign policy and US-Iranian relations.

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