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COLUMN: Hold Iran Accountable for Provocations through Sanctions

January 16, 2016
Weekly Column and Op-Ed
By Rep. Dan Newhouse

Last week, Americans were subjected to a stunning sight: Iran’s official state television released staged photos of detained U.S. service members on their knees with their hands on their heads. One U.S. sailor—appearing to be coached by Iranians—even apologized on camera for the Americans’ supposed incursion into Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf. The detainment of U.S. sailors had taken place just hours before President Obama’s final State of the Union address. In his speech, the President touted the success of his administration’s diplomatic posture toward Iran as projecting American strength, but the Commander-in-Chief  failed to acknowledge the American sailors—9 men and a single woman—then in Iranian hands. The incident is the latest in a series that raise serious questions about the kind of adversary the U.S. faces in Iran. Iran continues to take every opportunity to oppose American interests in the Middle East.

Americans were relieved to see the sailors released the following day, but the Iranians also released humiliating photos of U.S. personnel to score a propaganda victory. The Obama Administration wants to treat Iran like a responsible global actor, but what responsible global actor seizes American personnel only to photograph them and release them after forcing a staged apology? The only reason Iran can get away with this kind of provocation is the importance this Administration places on its flawed nuclear deal with the Iranian regime. Since the deal was adopted in July, 2015, Iran has shown bad faith and tested how much it can get away with.

Like many Americans, I continue to have serious concerns about this Administration’s nuclear agreement with Iran. The U.S. has begun lifting longstanding sanctions against Iran as part of that agreement. I opposed the President’s flawed nuclear deal with Iran because in exchange for lifting sanctions, the deal did not go far enough to prevent Iran from pursuing the means to manufacture a nuclear weapon. Despite the opposition of the majority of Congress and the American people, the President moved forward with the deal. Since the nuclear deal was signed, Iran has shown its true colors by conducting ballistic missile tests in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, firing missiles dangerously close to American navy vessels in the Persian Gulf, and continuing to hold American citizens in custody (journalist Jason Rezaian, Marine veteran Amir Mirza Hekmati, and Pastor Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor).

Even members of the President’s own party have called for an immediate, punitive response to Iran’s illegal testing-firing of a ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead. In the face of Iran’s destabilizing acts, the Obama Administration refuses to impose sanctions.

I cosponsored H.R. 3662, the Iran Terror Finance Transparency Act to require the Obama Administration to certify that those receiving sanctions relief under the nuclear deal are not involved in Iran’s support for terrorism or its ballistic missile program. The President and Secretary of State John Kerry committed to Congress that our “sanctions on Iran for its support of terrorism, its human rights abuses, its ballistic missile program, will continue to be fully enforced.” Passing H.R. 3662 is a way for Congress to conduct oversight of that pledge.

We must show that we are committed to preventing a nuclear Iran and doing whatever is necessary to protect the U.S. and our allies from this dangerous regime.