On October 25, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed three bills and a resolution in response to Iran’s ballistic missile program and threats posed by Hizballah. Notably, neither the bills nor the resolution would directly affect U.S. obligations in relation to the Iran Nuclear Agreement (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA). Further, because Hizballah is already sanctioned on the U.S. List of Specially Designated Nationals and the President already has authority to impose sanctions based on Iran’s ballistic missile program, it does not appear that the bills would result in substantive changes to existing law if enacted.
The key elements of the bills are as follows:
H.R. 1698 – Iran Ballistic Missiles and International Sanctions Enforcement Act
- This bill would create an obligation for the President to submit a report to Congress delineating Iran’s supply chain in relation to Iran’s ballistic missile program. It would also provide new authorities to the President to impose sanctions on agencies and individuals who support Iran with respect to ballistic missile-related goods, services, material support, financial services, and technologies.
- After an Iranian ballistic test, the President would have to submit a report to the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Foreign Relations informing them who was responsible for the test, whether those responsible have been designated, and the steps the President is taking to respond to the test.
- The bill would amend the Iran Sanctions Act to give the President the power to sanction persons who import/export to Iran any significant arms or related material prohibited by Annex B of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 (2015).
H.R. 3342 – Sanctioning Hizballah’s Illicit Use of Civilians as Defenseless Shields Act
- This bill directs the President to command the U.S. permanent representative to the U.N. to secure support for a resolution that would impose multilateral sanctions against Hizballah. The President would be required to report to Congress on persons and agencies or instrumentalities of foreign states that provide support to Hizballah in the use of civilians as human shields, as well as to block and prohibit all transactions in property and interests in property of parties sanctioned under this law. Such sanctioned parties also would not be allowed admission into the U.S.
H.R. 3329 – Hizballah International Financing Prevention Amendment Act of 2017
- This bill directs the President to sanction any foreign persons that he determines knowingly assist, sponsor, or provide significant financial material, or technology support for listed groups related to Hizballah, although the bill also contains a waiver allowing the President to waive sanctions in the interests of national security interest.
- The bill directs the President to impose sanctions against agencies or instrumentalities that supported combat operations of Hizballah or directly or indirectly provided significant financial or material support to Hizballah. A license would be required to export or re-export to such foreign agencies or instrumentalities any item other than food, medicine, medical devices, or similarly licensed items. The President may waive these sanctions if he finds it in the national security interest.
- The President would have to report on the foreign and domestic supply chain that significantly facilitates, supports, or otherwise aids Hizballah’s acquisition or development of missile production facilities. The President also would have to report on significant material support and arms or related material that Russia provides to Hizballah.
- The bill also would create restrictions on the opening or maintaining in the U.S. of correspondent accounts or payable-through accounts for foreign financial institutions that provide support for Hizballah.
H.R.S. 359 – Urging the European Union to designate Hizballah in its entirety as a terrorist organization
- This resolution urges the EU to designate Hizballah in its entirety as a terrorist organization and increase pressure on the group, including through better cross-border cooperation, issuing arrest warrants, freezing assets, and prohibiting fundraising activities.
It remains unclear whether or when the Senate will consider this legislation. Reportedly, Senators Corker and Cotton have been working on completely separate legislation to amend the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act to broaden the range of subjects that the President must assess in relation to Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA, and to provide for an automatic “snap-back” of sanctions lifted under the JCPOA if Iran were deemed capable of developing a nuclear weapon within one year. It is also believed that President Trump would like the law amended to eliminate the requirement for a Presidential certification every 90 days.