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A longtime aide for Secretary of State John Kerry is urging senators to oppose a new Iran sanctions measure because it would level tough penalties on Tehran should it carry out a terror attack against Americans anywhere in the world.
One of the requirements of a new bipartisan Iran sanctions bill in the Senate is that President Barack Obama certify “Iran has not directly, or through a proxy, supported, financed, planned, or otherwise carried out an act of terrorism against the United States or United States persons or property anywhere in the world” during nuclear negotiations with the West.
If Iran—one of the top global sponsors of terrorism—is caught committing an extremist act, the bill would require new sanctions to immediately take effect.
The anti-terror requirement is now causing outrage among pro-Iran advocacy groups who oppose new sanctions.
Edward Levine, a Kerry confidant who formerly worked on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, lambasted the anti-terror mandate in a recent analysis for the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.
Requiring Iran to cease its terror activities against the United States could harm the negotiations over its contested nuclear program, according to Levine.
“This language would mean that if, say, Hezbollah were to explode a bomb outside a U.S. firm’s office in Beirut, the sanctions would go into effect (because Iran gives financial and other support to Hezbollah) even if Iran’s nuclear activities and negotiations were completely in good faith,” Levine wrote in his analysis. “So, once again, the goalposts are being moved.”
Levine goes on to say that because the bill does not set a specific time period on Iran’s terror activities, “Iran’s past support of terrorism might make it impossible for the president ever to make this certification.”
One Capitol Hill source who knew Levine during his time working on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said it is plausible that he was enlisted to help with the administration’s campaign to derail the sanctions bill.
It was “likely a personal favor called in to help with the opposition,” said the source, noting Kerry’s relationship with Levine.
Senate insiders working on the sanctions bill expressed shock that its opponents are quibbling with congressional efforts to prohibit Iran from attacking America.
“This just shows the radical nature of the opposition to the bipartisan Iran bill in the Senate,” said one senior Senate aide. “To say that prohibiting terrorist attacks against America is moving the goalposts on Iran—wow, I’m just speechless.”
A State Department spokeswoman did not respond to a Washington Free Beacon request for comment on Levine’s analysis.
The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, which published Levine’s analysis, has received funding from the Ploughshares Fund, a liberal advocacy group that funds a network of organizations pushing to roll back sanctions on Iran.
As Congress fights to maintain pressure on Iran’s economy, the White House is poised to roll back sanctions under a recently inked nuclear deal with Tehran.
Iran will receive up to $7 billion in sanctions relief, including access to $4.2 billion that is currently restricted when the deal goes into effect on Jan. 20.
Additionally, Iran will see the reversal of sanctions on its petrochemical and auto imports as well as its gold and precious metals industry.
Tehran will also be able to license spare parts for its civil aviation and gain access to financial lifelines for humanitarian services, including medical services and tuition payments for Iranians studying abroad.