POLITICS
05/13/2013 11:55 am ET | Updated May 13, 2013

Iran Sanctions Bill Draft Would Set Regime Change As U.S. Policy: Anti-War Group

AP

NEW YORK -- An Iran sanctions bill being drafted by a bipartisan group of senators would make regime change the official U.S. policy toward the country, a religious anti-war group said Friday, expressing concern that the measure would increase the likelihood of armed conflict over Iran's nuclear program.

The Friends Committee on National Legislation obtained what it says is a summary of the draft legislation on Iran sanctions, passed along by a congressional staffer within the last two weeks. And the details, the Quaker group told The Huffington Post, are worrying.

"This legislation would set U.S. policy toward Iran as regime change, so if passed, this would be the strongest signal yet that the U.S. is not interested in behavior-changing and reaching a nuclear deal," said Kate Gould, the group's lead lobbyist on Middle East policy. "That would create the path for a disastrous war."

The office of Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who is leading the legislative effort, did not respond to requests for comment on the document, but its contents mirror those of a draft bill described by Bloomberg News in April. The draft summary says the bill would require the Treasury Department to certify that Iran "is transitioning to a free and democratically elected government" before it lifts sanctions on the country.

That would put the Obama administration in the difficult political position of sanctioning Iran's human rights record before it can cut a deal on the country's nuclear program, Gould said.

"It is widely assumed that if and when there finally is a deal, the U.S. would have to lift sanctions, and this would straightjacket the administration," she said.

Gould also noted that the U.S. previously set regime change as a goal for another Middle Eastern country -- Iraq, in 1998. Passing a similar bill now for Iran, she said, would have the additional effect of validating the rhetoric of hardliners within the Islamic Republic.

Along with Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), Kirk introduced a bill on Wednesday that would restrict Iran's access to foreign exchange reserves. Manchin's office also did not return a request for comment.

Gould said she believes Kirk and others will still introduce the larger sanctions package later and separated out the foreign exchange piece because it has broad bipartisan support and can pass out of Congress quickly.

"He's still shopping [the larger bill] around, dotting his I's and crossing his T's," said Jamal Abdi, policy director for National Iranian American Council, which opposes stricter sanctions.

In addition to the regime change language, the draft summary also "prohibits U.S. contributions to any multilateral organization [other than the World Bank and the IMF] if the governing board of the organization includes ... a country that faces U.S. sanctions."

That could force the U.S. to withdraw its financial support for organizations like the U.N. Refugee Agency and UNICEF, the children's humanitarian relief fund.

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