Thursday, September 28, 2006

House Passes Iran Freedom Support Act

I reported before that on July 27, 2006, the US House of Representatives approved by voice vote to extend the Iran Libya Sanctions Act of 1996 (ILSA). ILSA was set to expire on August 5, 2006. H.R. 5877, the bill introduced by House International Relations Committee member Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Chairman Henry J. Hyde (R-IL), provided a simple extension of ILSA until September 29, 2006. The Senate also approved the short-term extension before they went to summer recess.

During the House floor debate on H.R. 5877, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen said an extension of the original ILSA would give the House and Senate “the additional time to finalize the text of the Iran Freedom Support Act.” Well, that time has come.

On September 28, 2006, the US House of Representatives passed by voice vote a watered down version Iran Freedom Support Act by voice vote. The bill, H.R. 6198, is a watered down version of the original Iran Freedom Support Act, H.R. 282.

H.R. 6198 still waits Senate approval and it is expected to come up on September 29, before the Senate leaves for election campaigning in the month of October and before the ILSA extension expires.

During the House floor debate on H.R. 6198, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said, "It would be a critical mistake to allow a regime with a track record as bloody and as dangerous as Iran to obtain nuclear weapons. Enough with the carrots. It's time for the stick."

Meanwhile, critics questioned the need for unilateral action when the United States was pushing for a multinational approach to Iran's alleged nuclear program. "It is, if you will, a cruise missile aimed at a difficult diplomatic effort just as they are reaching their most sensitive point," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore. "The timing for this legislation could not be worse."

At a minimum, the timing of this legislation would disrupt on-going negotiations to resolve the confrontation with Iran. This week, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani held talks in Berlin. Set to continue next week, these talks could produce substantive results and show promising signs of success, according to both sides. Javier Solana said of the talks “have been progressing,” and Ali Larijani said the two sides came to “some positive conclusions.” Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice also said the US is waiting the outcome of these discussions.

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