Few mainstream publications have picked up on the fact that in a response to the San Bernardino killings, the Congress last week passed legislation, which the president duly signed, that puts Iran in an axis of international-terrorist evil along with Syria, Iraq and Sudan. The legislation amends our country’s visa waiver program. Iranian dual nationals, as well as US citizens who have visited Iran, will need visas to get into the U.S.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Friday said it was “absurd” that Tehran should be included on the list.
“No Iranian nor anybody who visited Iran had anything to do with the tragedies that have taken place in Paris or in San Bernardino or anywhere else,” he said in an interview with Middle East-focused website Al Monitor.
Secretary of State John Kerry promptly met with Zarif, his Iranian counterpart, to assure him that the new law doesn’t undercut the Iran deal. But the Iranians say that the legislation is the result of pro-Israel lobbying. And even the State Department describes Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) and U.S. State Secretary John Kerry in Geneva, January 14, 2015 . (Rick Wilking/AFP/Getty Images)
Iranians say the bill reflects pro-Israel lobbying. Reuters:
Iran said on Monday that Israeli lobbying was behind a new measure passed by the U.S. Congress that will prevent visa-free travel to the United States for people who have visited Iran or hold Iranian nationality.
The measure, which President Barack Obama signed into law on Friday, also applies to Iraq, Syria and Sudan, and was introduced as a security measure after the Islamic State attacks in Paris and a similar attack in San Bernardino, California.
Elham Khatami of the National Iranian American Council says she’s now a second-class citizen:
[In early December,] in a swift move that flew under the radar of many civil liberties and activist groups, the House passed the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act….
In the wake of the tragic terrorist attacks in San Bernardino and Paris, Republicans had fast-tracked the bill to the floor for a vote. In the process, they managed to insert into the legislation discriminatory language against dual nationals of Iraq, Syria and official state sponsors of terror — Iran and Sudan. The legislation has since been lumped into Congress’ annual omnibus appropriations bill and is expected to come to the Senate floor for a vote as early as Saturday.
More from Reuters‘ description of the Israel lobby angle:
Iran, a Shi’ite Muslim theocracy staunchly opposed to Sunni radicalism espoused by groups like Islamic State, says its inclusion on the list is intended to undermine a deal on its nuclear programme that Tehran reached with world powers, including the United States, in July, known as the JCPOA.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari said in a televised news conference that the U.S. measure had been passed “under pressure from the Zionist lobby and currents opposed to the JCPOA”.
The administration wants to have it both ways on blaming Iran. Yesterday on National Public Radio, Adam Szubin, the counter-terrorism finance under secretary at the Treasury Department, also put Iran in the category of ISIS, as an international terror deliverer:
if you are familiar with the model of how al-Qaida or groups like Hamas and even Hezbollah have financed themselves, they’ve typically been heavily reliant on foreign donations, whether from state sponsors like Iran or whether from wealthy what we call deep-pocket donors, often in the Gulf. But that financing model is not ISIL. When you have a group that’s raising hundreds of millions of dollars in a year from internal sources, we don’t have those same chokepoints to go after in terms of the foreign flows.
Meanwhile John Kerry is doing fancy footwork, explaining the legislation away, in a letter to Javad Zarif.
we remain fully committed to the sanctions lifting provided for under the JCPOA. We will adhere to the full measure of our commitments, per the agreement.
At the State Department briefing Monday, reporters questioned why the legislation didn’t amount to a violation of the Iran Deal:
QUESTION: So the Iranians are concerned, apparently, that the – that legislation on the Hill, particularly the visa waiver legislation… that it violates the nuclear deal. I understand that’s not your position, but I’m wondering if you share the concern that the Iranians have expressed about the changes to the Visa Waiver Program in that it could affect or harm the ability of the Iranians to take advantage of the sanctions relief that they will be getting under the deal.
MR [John] KIRBY: Well, certainly, the Secretary noted the concerns by Foreign Minister Zarif. You saw that he addressed that in his letter. You’re right, there’s no violation of the JCPOA or our commitments by dint of this new legislation. And the Secretary further made it clear that we’re going to implement this new legislation so as not to interfere with the legitimate business interests of Iran, such as in areas where the sanctions are going to be lifted when Iran has taken the key steps it needs to take to meet its own commitments under the JCPOA….
QUESTION: there’s a move afoot on the Hill to do all sorts of things Iran-related. And if it’s the Administration’s position that as long as the Iranians uphold their end of the deal, you’re going to hold – uphold your end of the deal, that would suggest to me that anything that you see as compromising the JCPOA you would oppose on the Hill.
MR KIRBY: Let me put it on – a different spin on this. I’d say that we’re going to meet – we have every intention of meeting all our commitments under the JCPOA. I mean, and that’s not going to change. We will meet our JCPOA commitments.
QUESTION: Why was Iran included to begin with? I mean, could you remind us why it was included in this thing, in these countries, among this group of countries?
MR KIRBY: Why what?
QUESTION: Why was Iran included?
MR KIRBY: Because it’s a state sponsor of terrorism.
QUESTION: Okay. But it is not in any way connected to ISIS and what’s going on. I mean, we have not seen —
MR KIRBY: It’s a state sponsor of terrorism —
MR KIRBY: — and it’s still on that list. And that’s why travel to Iran was included in this measure.
QUESTION: So you don’t believe that this is maybe a back way to sort of nip at the Iran deal or to scuttle the Iran deal?
MR KIRBY: No, no. We’ve talked about this in the past.
Here is some more blindness in the media on these issues. NPR has continually deceived listeners about Sheldon Adelson’s agenda, and it did so again yesterday. Adelson is a leading opponent of the Iran Deal, as a supporter of Israel. He has called on President Obama to nuke Iran. But in a report on Adelson’s purchase of a Nevada newspaper, NPR once again leaves out the Israel angle of Adelson’s interests. It says blandly:
Adelson is also prominently involved in national politics.
That link is to a story about his on-line gambling concerns. But as Cory Bennett of the Hill said on CSPAN the other day– something I did not know till now– Iran is said to have undertaken a cyber-attack on Sheldon Adelson’s casino last year because of his call to nuke Iran. The alleged cyber-attack:
Investigators determined that hacker activists were the ones who broke into servers belonging to the Las Vegas Sands Corporation in February 2014, costing the company more than $40 million in damages and data recovery costs, Bloomberg Businessweek reported Thusday citing a report by cybersecurity firm Dell SecureWorks.
The hackers were acting in retaliation to the company’s CEO, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson’s statement that Obama should detonate a nuclear bomb in Tehran, which stirred controversy around the world.
This is the battle behind the headlines. And in a transparent effort to get Adelson’s backing, as well as that of the Andrew Herenstein’s of the world, the neoconservative favorite in the Republican race, Senator Marco Rubio, has vowed to tear up the Iran deal on his first day in the White House if he’s elected.
Thus the ideological war over how much the U.S. should support Israel is playing out in global terms; and our media are shying away from the story.