Remember all the promises that the only sanctions to be lifted would be those related to Iran’s presumed efforts to obtain nuclear weapons? Well, many other seemingly iron-clad promises have gone by the wayside. For example, how could it be that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA or Nuclear Iran Deal) included provisions that lift the embargo on Iran for acquiring conventional weapons, or – even more frightening – the embargo on intercontinental ballistic weapons?
So, the concern arose, what if the administration decided to waive the anti-terrorism sanctions under the tax code (specifically, 26 U.S.C. 901(j))? That regulation states that U.S. taxpayers cannot get credit for taxes paid to countries with which the U.S. has severed diplomatic relations or which the Secretary of State has designated as a supporter of terrorism.
As a general matter, the President has the authority to waive that measure “in the national interest.” Do you see the problem? It is the president’s decision to make.
Given the many sleights of hand surrounding the Iran Deal, on Sept. 22, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, sent a letter to President Barack Obama. In that letter Ryan asked Obama whether his administration had made any commitment or promise to exercise his waiver authority for sanctions imposed on Iran due to its engagement in terrorism.
Ryan also asked whether the president would commit not to exercise his waiver authority with respect to Iran during the remainder of his term in office.
There was no response from the White House.
Because the White House refused to answer those very direct questions in Ryan’s letter, Rep. Peter Roskam, chair of the Oversight subcommittee of Ways and Means, decided to be proactive.
Roskam put together a hearing which was held on Wednesday, Nov. 4, to which experts were invited to testify about whether the administration could and should waive the sanctions on Iran which were imposed because of Iran’s terrorist activity and its sponsorship of global terrorism.
Roskam explained the genesis of the anti-terrorism regulations contained in the Internal Revenue Code with respect to Iran.
They were introduced thirty-six years ago, after the Iranian mullahs came to power and their thugs seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, holding hostage hundreds of Americans. The U.S. responded to that act of terrorism by severing diplomatic relations and imposing economic sanctions against Iran.
Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, was the first witness to testify at Wednesday’s hearing.
Dubowitz, a well-respected expert on the Nuclear Iran Deal, explained the current, post-JCPOA situation. He testified that Iran remains the leading state sponsor of terror, and is known to be currently holding four Iranian-American citizens and refuses to give information about a missing American citizen who vanished after traveling to Iran eight years ago.
Dubowitz maintains that the JCPOA will not prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons capability – the central position of the Obama administration. Dubowitz said that while the deal provides extensive sanctions relief to Iran, he insisted it was imperative that the U.S. administration employ various “non-nuclear” sanctions, including through the use of the tax code, to prevent enriching those in the Iranian regime who continue to engage in terrorism.
In fact, it was the FDD director’s suggestion that the U.S. increase sanctions and take other measures to prevent Iran from continuing its position as the number one state sponsor of terrorism.
Former Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith also testified at the Terrorism Sanctions hearing. Feith was asked to testify specifically because the only other president to waive tax code terrorism sanctions was his former boss, President George W. Bush, regarding Libya.
Lori Lowenthal Marcus