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Members of Congress have called on the Obama administration to take steps to implement and enforce sanctions against Iran.

Heard on the Hill

Near East Report offers a brief look at recent legislation, resolutions, letters and hearings in Congress pertaining to U.S. policy in the Middle East, Iran’s nuclear program, the U.S-Israel relationship and the Goldstone Report.

Pelosi Leads House Delegation to Israel

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and seven other House members met in Israel on May 8 with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other officials. “It is a privilege to be in Israel to mark the 63rd anniversary of this nation’s declaration of independence,” Pelosi said in a statement.

“Israel’s history is a tale of prosperity, resilience, and perseverance; a story of courage and success in face of seemingly impossible odds,” she continued. “For 63 years, Israel has shone as a bright light of democracy and freedom dedicated to the core values of the Jewish people: to promote peace, to pursue justice, to seek the common good.”

The delegation arrived on the eve of Israel’s Memorial Day and participated in traditional Israeli ceremonies to observe the occasion. Joining Pelosi were Reps. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), George Miller (D-CA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Nick Rahall (D-WV), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Steve Israel (D-NY), and Cedric Richmond (D-LA).

Senators Urge Treasury to Strengthen Iran Sanctions

Seven Republican senators wrote a letter on May 3 urging the Treasury Department to amend and strengthen its proposed banking regulations regarding relationships between U.S. banks and foreign banks that do business with sanctioned Iranian entities. The letter, sent to Acting Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen, expressed concern that the proposed regulations do not meet the requirements in the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISADA) that President Obama signed into law last July. At Cohen's nomination hearing earlier that day, he said the Treasury Department is “getting close to a decision point” on sanctions against foreign banks that do business in violation of U.S. law. To date, the Treasury Department has sanctioned 20 Iranian banks but no foreign, non-Iranian banks that do business with sanctioned entities.

Lawmaker Urges Investigation of French Firm’s Iran Ties

Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) sent a letter on April 20 to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner urging their departments to investigate the business ties between Iran and the French shipping firm CMA-CGM. After the exposure of three separate cases of CMA's involvement in Iranian weapons smuggling, the letter stated, the company should cease servicing Iranian ports and institute a full review of its due diligence procedures. Conaway added that if the company fails to take these steps or is found to have knowingly violated United Nations sanctions against Iran, the State and Treasury Departments should implement sanctions against the French firm.

Senators: Sanction Iranian Human Rights Abusers

A bipartisan group of four senators on April 15 sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging her to implement CISADA by officially designating Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a human rights abuser. The letter, signed by Sens. Mark Kirk (R-IL), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), also pressed Clinton to sanction 25 other Iranian officials recently labeled by the European Union as human rights violators. Last month, in testimony before the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations Subcommittee, Secretary of State Clinton stated that there was “certainly evidence” that Ahmadinejad was directly responsible for the crackdown following the fraudulent June 2009 presidential elections.

Senator Highlights U.S. Contractors Investing in Iran

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) on April 8 raised concerns that U.S. government contractors may be doing business in Iran in violation of CISADA, which prohibits companies from investing in Iran's energy sector. The senator wrote to the comptroller of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) asking for an investigation of federal agencies' compliance with the certification requirements in U.S. sanctions law. McCaskill also wrote to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to raise specific concerns about the Defense Department contractor Kuwait and Gulf Link Transport's (KGL) ties to subsidiaries of the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL).

Amb. Susan Rice: United States Wants Goldstone Report to “Disappear”

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said on April 6 that the United States wants the Goldstone Report to “disappear” from international discussion. “I’m not sure it can be amended,” Rice told a hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs. “What we want to see is for it to disappear and no longer be a subject of discussion and debate in the Human Rights Council or the General Assembly or beyond.” Rice’s statement comes in the wake of Goldstone’s retraction of the original report, which had claimed that Israel deliberately attacked Palestinian civilians in its campaign against Hamas in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009.