In a rare display of bipartisan unity in the U.S. Congress, the House last Friday (September 21) approved legislation that would require the administration to confront Iran’s hostile thrust into the Western Hemisphere.
This measure is a clear rebuke of the State Department’s insistence that Iran’s growing activities in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and elsewhere pose no threat to U.S. security. When President Obama declared in July that the anti-American regime of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela “has not had a serious national security impact on us,” his Republican opponent Mitt Romney sharply criticized this appraisal, citing Chávez’s close ties to Iran and its terror proxy, Hezbollah.
As I wrote in July:
With Iran’s back against the wall, squeezed by new international economic sanctions, it will scratch and claw to hold on to its economic ties to Venezuela, which it uses to gain illicit access to the international financial system and carry its struggle to the United States’ doorstep. As the United States and theinternational community square off with Iran in the months ahead, we may pay a dear price for having neglected Chávez’s dangerous liaisons with Tehran until it was too late.
The bill, H.R. 3783, authored by freshman Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC), requires the State Department to conduct a six-month review and produce “comprehensive strategy to counter Iran’s growing hostile presence and activity in the Western Hemisphere.” The House passed the bill by voice vote, and key Senate staff report that the measure has a good chance of being approved before Congress adjourns in November.
If the legislation is passed by the Senate and signed by the president, the State Department would have six months to produce a “comprehensive, government-wide” strategy to protect U.S. interests and assets in the Western Hemisphere and to confront any countries helping evade international sanctions targeting its illicit nuclear program. It also bolsters ongoing efforts to sanction persons abetting Iran, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, its Qods Force, or Hezbollah.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) chairs the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere and is a leader on the Iran issue; he and his subcommittee counterpart, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), already are looking to advance this legislation, perhaps with slight revisions, before the 112th Congress adjourns for the year.