Congress Wants To Expose How Sanctions Relief Will Empower Iranian Terrorist Groups

New bill requires unprecedented reporting on Iranian terror capabilities targeting Israel

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March 31, 2022

Bipartisan legislation in Congress would force the Biden administration to release information about how its bid to unwind economic sanctions on Iran would empower and fund the hardline regime’s regional terrorism enterprise against Israel, according to a copy of the bill obtained exclusively by the Washington Free Beacon.

Reps. Ronny Jackson (R., Texas) and Stephanie Murphy (D., Fla.), along with 19 other House members, introduced on Thursday the Keeping Israel Safe From Iranian Proxies Act, legislation that would force the Biden administration to tell Congress how sanctions relief would help Iran fund Hamas and Hezbollah, the top two Iranian-backed terrorist groups waging operations against Israel. Murphy, as well as Rep. Pat Fallon (R., Texas), are members of the House Armed Services Committee.

The legislation would require the secretary of defense to detail the capabilities these two terrorist groups have and explain how sanctions relief that is slated to be granted as part of a revamped nuclear accord with Iran will impact them. Hamas and Hezbollah are Iran’s leading terrorist proxy groups and receive funding and military equipment from the hardline regime in Tehran. With a new nuclear deal expected to be announced in the coming days, virtually all sanctions on Iran will be lifted, enabling it to pump more resources into both groups.

The bipartisan coalition of lawmakers are concerned that sanctions relief for Iran will embolden both terror groups and lead to an increase in terror strikes on Israel, which saw a wave of attacks that have killed 11 citizens in the last two weeks. The removal of sanctions has been a sticking point in diplomatic talks with Iran and has fueled opposition to the deal in Congress. When the 2015 accord was inked, the cash assets repatriated to Iran helped it to ensure that Hamas and Hezbollah have cutting-edge military equipment on hand.

"The United States cannot afford to ignore the threat posed by Iran-backed proxies like Hamas and Hezbollah," Jackson, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told the Free Beacon. "These terrorists are an existential threat to one of our greatest allies, Israel, and to democracies around the world. Assessing their military capabilities, and how easing U.S. sanctions on Iran strengthens those capabilities, will be an important tool to help combat their plans to annihilate the Jewish State and Western values."

The legislation is meant to "protect our friends in Israel from the world’s leading state sponsor of terror and their proxies in the Middle East," Jackson said.

"Iran is a threat to the United States, to our ally Israel, and to global security and stability because the regime provides material support to terrorist organizations and is seeking nuclear weapons," Murphy said in a statement on the bill. "I'm proud to co-lead this bipartisan bill to ensure that U.S. policymakers are regularly assessing the military capabilities of these Iranian-backed groups so we have the information needed to effectively combat them."

The legislation is backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the nation’s most influential pro-Israel organization. With AIPAC’s support, the bill is likely to garner broad support on both sides of the aisle, though it is unclear if it could pass at the same time the Biden administration is working to secure a new nuclear deal. Any congressional effort to hold these terror groups accountable is likely to irritate Iran and make it less likely to sign a new accord.

The legislation takes unprecedented steps to expose Iran’s vast terrorism network and its specific capabilities—a resource that could help Congress sculpt new sanctions targeting these entities and their arms networks.

The bill would require the Defense Department provide Congress with a report detailing "improvements to the military capabilities of Iran-backed entities, including Hamas, Lebanese Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Asa’ib ahl al-Haq, Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, Kata’ib Sayyid al Shuhada, Kata’ib al-Imam Ali, Kata’ib Hezbollah, the Badr Organization, the Fatemiyoun, the Zainabiyoun, and Ansar Allah (also known as the Houthis)," according to the text of the bill.

The report would also have to include information on "the direct or indirect impacts that the imposition or revocation of unilateral United States economic sanctions on Iran may have on the military capabilities" of the terror groups.

The bill also stipulates that no federal funds may be used to bolster any of the listed terror groups. This provision could interfere with the Biden administration's efforts to unfreeze Iranian funds that may be funneled to its proxy groups.

Update 12:46 p.m.: This piece has been updated with additional information.