House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) has sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry protesting his offer to allow Iran to bypass a new law restricting travel from countries that sponsor terror.
Royce, along with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX), and Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI) rebuked Kerry for assuring Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif that the Obama administration could make exceptions for Iranian nationals, after Iran complained that the new law violated the spirit of the Iran deal.
The congressional leaders stated that the new law was not the problem; rather, Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism is.
In his December 18 letter to Zarif, Kerry wrote, “I am also confident that the recent changes in visa requirements passed in Congress, which the Administration has the authority to waive, will not in any way prevent us from meeting our JCPOA commitments, and that we will implement them so as not to interfere with legitimate business interests of Iran.” In the letter Kerry also noted that “we have a number of potential tools available to us, including multiple entry ten-year business visas [and] programs for expediting business visas.”
Part of the congressional response reads:
Based on the letter to Foreign Minister Zarif, we are deeply concerned that the narrowly-intended use of the waiver authority will be ignored in favor of applying the waiver authority to those who have traveled to Iran for business purposes. Not only was such an exemption from the law not included in the legislation, it was specifically discussed during bill negotiations with Administration staff and expressly refused by Members of Congress despite the inclusion of two other exemptions. This letter serves to dispel any notion that the Congressional intent would allow the waiver authority to be used for business travelers.
The letter further states:
Congress and the President strengthened the VWP [Visa Waiver Program] in order to protect the national security of the United States. Iran is impacted by this new law because it is a U.S.-designated state sponsor of terrorism. The simplest way to eliminate this restriction is for Iran to end its support of terrorism. We are deeply concerned that this point was absent from your recent correspondence with the Iranian Foreign Minister and urge the Administration to press Tehran on this, as well as its recent missile tests and persistent jailing of Americans. The problem is with Iranian actions, not the new visa waiver law.
During a Tuesday night segment with Fox News’s On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, Royce said President Obama “does not have the authority to” allow for Iran to bypass the new VWP reforms. “The president cannot overturn the law, and neither can the secretary of state.”
Royce also pointed out: “In the last few weeks we have seen Iran, in violation of the U.N. sanctions, launch another ballistic missile test [and] we have seen them also take another American hostage.” In addition to their taking of American captives, Royce noted that Iran was recently discovered to have been responsible for the hacking of a dam just outside of New York.
Iran was also behind the hacking of power grids in California that could potentially cause nation-wide outages and vulnerability to attack internally. “Now you have a situation where we are trying to placate the Iranian regime. This administration has got to learn to push back on Iran…in this case, it’s a threat to our homeland,” Royce said.
He also pointed out that Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps General Qasem Soleimani is directly responsible for the deaths of 600 Americans.
He is in charge of assassinations outside of Iran. So why in the world would we want someone like that, who heads up the Quds Forces, to have the ability to slip his agents out of Europe and into the United States? Why would they get automatic visa waiver program like we would give to Europe? There is no reason to allow that. And that’s why we said that for state sponsors of terrorism and for those who had visited Syria, this was not going to be offered… and now you have the secretary of state tying to circumvent this.
Kerry’s letter elicited a positive response from dual Swiss-Iranian citizen Trita Parsi, president of the pro-Iran lobbying group National Iranian American Council, which was vehemently opposed to H.R. 158. In a statement to pro-Tehran news outlet Al-Monitor, Trita had written “the letter shows that the US government is taking the objections of the EU and the Iranians seriously, as the new visa waiver law does arguably violate the JCPOA. The measures listed by Kerry helps minimize that.”