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U.S., Israel and Iran: A Legislative Update

In the lead-up to the Baghdad talks on Iran's nuclear program, the United States has expressed support for Israel and opposition to a nuclear weapons-capable Iran.

Iran Sanctions

On Monday, May 21, the Senate unanimously passed the Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Human Rights Act of 2012 (S. 2101). The legislation sanctions the officials, agents and affiliates of the Iranian Revolution Guard. It will also require companies that trade on the U.S. Stock Exchange to divulge any Iran-related business to the Securities and Exchange Commission, and expand existing penalties on energy and uranium mining ventures with Tehran. The House of Representatives passed a similar bill in December (H.R. 1905) and now both bills will go to a conference committee for reconciliation.

Congressional Resolutions

On May 17, the House passed a resolution (401-11) on the importance of preventing the Government of Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability. House Resolution 568—introduced jointly by the House Foreign Affairs Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-CA)—urged continued and increasing economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran and rejected any policy that would rely on efforts to contain a nuclear weapons-capable Iran. A similar resolution (S. Res. 380) has been referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Funding for Iron Dome

Also on May 17, the State Department announced that the U.S. would send an additional $70 million to Israel to enhance Iron Dome—Israel's rocket defense system which has intercepted over 90 missiles fired from Gaza this year. The House Armed Services Committee also authorized $680 million for Iron Dome in the defense appropriations legislation currently moving through Congress. The United States provided Israel with $205 million in 2011 to help fund the Iron Dome system.

United States-Israel Cooperation

On May 9, the House passed the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012 (H.R. 4133) in vote of 411-2. The legislation reinforces the U.S.'s commitment to support Israel's legitimacy and right to security, including strong relations between the two countries in intelligence, military training and defense. Similar legislation (S. 2165) has been referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Despite some initial optimism from the international community, the Baghdad talks have so far proven unsuccessful—with Iran continuing to insist that its nuclear program is peaceful, while its top general pledges the "full annihilation of the Zionist regime of Israel to the end."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently emphasize that "nothing would be better than to see this issue resolved diplomatically. But I have seen no evidence that Iran is serious about stopping its nuclear weapons program. It looks as though they see these talks as another opportunity to deceive and delay just like North Korea did for years."

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and P5+1 (United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France, and Germany) introduced a proposal that called for Iran to stop uranium enrichment to 20 percent and to allow IAEA inspectors access to nuclear facilities. However, Iran countered that it will not open nuclear sites to inspectors or cease uranium enrichment unless the international community scales back sanctions. It has been reported that a new IAEA report, expected out on Friday, will reveal that Iran has added 350 new centrifuges to its nuclear sites.

Hadassah Programming will continue to monitor the situation and will send additional updates as more information becomes available.

Date: 5/24/2012 12:00:00 AM

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