The navy of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) fired several rockets near the U.S. aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman, a U.S. destroyer, and a French frigate on Tuesday evening in the Strait of Hormuz. The incident,confirmed by the U.S. Navy on Wednesday, comes as the latest in a series of hostile Iranian actions since the nuclear deal was reached in July. The rockets came within 1,500 yards of the aircraft carrier, and according to The New York Times, the U.S. Navy described Iran’s move as “highly provocative.”
Since the inking of the nuclear accord in July, Iran’s provocative behavior has intensified. Iran test-fired two ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Iran also convicted an American citizen on false charges, arrested two U.S. persons, and hanged another American citizen. Iran has launched cyber attacks against the U.S., exported weapons to Yemen and Syria, and violated international travel bans. Members of Congress have called on the Obama administration to respond to Iran’s aggression. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said, “While these ballistic missile tests are outside of the parameters of the [deal] our response has to be strategic and we have to make sure Iran knows that it can’t continue to simply blatantly disregard the international community and the U.N. Security Council.” According to The Wall Street Journal, Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) asserted, “Both nuclear missile tests fly in the face of U.N. Security Council resolutions, yet the administration is not punishing these violations.” There are concerns that the administration does not respond to Iranian aggressions for fear they will walk away from the nuclear deal. Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ed Royce (R-Calif) commented, “Now you have a situation where we are trying to placate the Iranian regime. This administration has got to learn to push back on Iran.”
To better protect the U.S. from terror attacks, Congress undertook measures to tighten the Visa Waiver Program. In response, Iran declared the measures a violation of the nuclear deal. Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee Michael McCaul (R-Texas) remarked, “Iran is the world’s largest state sponsor of Islamist terrorism, and our message to them is clear: as long as you fuel networks of terror, individuals of your country will not be allowed to enter ours without closer scrutiny.” Executive Director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies Mark Dubowitz told Bloomberg View, "If the United States Congress cannot implement a more secure visa procedure for those who travel to state sponsors of terrorism like Iran, then the Iran deal ties the hands of lawmakers to a greater extent than even deal critics feared.”
New bills are being introduced in Congress with bipartisan support that would target the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran’s powerful extraterritorial militia, preventing it from benefiting from the sanctions relief that was allowed as part of the nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic.
Proposals like the IRGC Sanctions Act, the Quarantining the Ayatollah’s State-Sponsored Aggression and Militancy (QASSAM) Act, the Iran Terror Finance Transparency Act, the IRGC Terrorist Designation Act, and the Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps Sanctions Implementation and Review Act have been introduced by members of both parties in both Congressional chambers. Tyler Stapleton, Deputy Director of Congressional Relations for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and Emanuele Ottolenghi, a senior fellow at that think tank, wrote a policy brief on Monday that explains and different ways the bills would sanction he IRGC and label it a terrorist organization:
The bills call for, inter alia, designating the entire IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization (the IRGC Terrorist Designation Act) and creating an IRGC watch list to provide transparency for companies looking to invest in Iran (IRGC Sanctions Act). Under the QASSAM Act, Treasury would be required to lower the threshold for companies to be considered IRGC-owned or controlled, thereby bringing hundreds of front companies, shipping assets, and financial institutions under greater scrutiny.
The Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps Sanctions Implementation and Review Act would provide for more effective sanctions against the IRGC or any of its officials, agents, or affiliates to counter support for international terrorism and assistance to the Assad regime in Syria. Lastly, the IRGC Sanctions Act would limit licenses granted to entities that have business relationships with the Guard and impede efforts to remove Iran from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism until Congress approves such a move.
The bills aim to address weaknesses in the current system of sanctions, which fail “to designate hundreds of Guard companies and thousands of its top officials.” The IRGC is a potent military and economic force in Iran, and controls around 20 percent of the value of the Tehran Stock Exchange. Once sanctions are lifted, Stapleton and Ottolenghi write, “Congress will have to move swiftly to minimize the risk that renewed trade relations with Tehran enrich the Guard’s already full coffers.”
While the language of the nuclear deal limits the United States from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions on Iran, Secretary of State John Kerry told the Senate in July that Iran had agreed that sanctions related to terrorism or other similar issues would not violate the deal.
We’re not going to come back and just slap [sanctions] on again, but that absolutely does not mean that we are precluded from sanctioning Iranian actors, sectors, as any actions or circumstances warrant. So all of our other sanctions authorities remain in place, they are unaffected by this agreement, and Iran only said, if you read what it says, that they would treat the imposition of new nuclear related sanctions as the grounds to cease performing. But they are clear and we are clear that we have all other kinds of authorities and let me specific on that because it’s important for this whole debate to be clear.
The IRGC is being targeted because of its support for terror and human rights abuses.
Before the deal was announced, an Iranian businessman told Reuters that Iran benefiting from sanctions relief would “increase the IRGC’s influence over politics and the economy because it will strengthen the hardline establishment.” Lee Smith, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, wrote shortly after the deal was announced that the sanctions relief would strengthen the IRGC’s financial hold over Iran. (via TheTower.org)
At the 2013 Games for Change Festival in New York, Israeli father and software executive Uri Mishol learned an amazing factoid: By age 21, most children have spent 10,000 hours playing online games, equaling the hours spent in all of middle school and high school. “That event opened my eyes to the potential impact that games can have on young minds, for good or bad,” Mishol tells ISRAEL21c. “We have this amazing platform kids are attracted to, so how can we take advantage of it in promoting tolerance, trust and dialogue and breaking stereotypes and racism?” His answer: Games for Peace, a movement to bridge gaps between young people in conflict zones through a shared experience of playing popular video games requiring communication and collaboration within a virtual world. Rather than reinventing the wheel, G4P adapts internationally beloved games, particularly Minecraft, to accomplish its goal. “That’s what is radical about our approach,” Mishol says. “As far as we know, our school program is the only Jewish-Arab dialogue program that kids actually elbow their way into because they want to be a part of it. You can’t say that about the majority of these types of programs.” Kids across the Middle East can play G4P together from the safety of their own school or home. One way to do this is periodic Play for Peace weekends, the first of which attracted 100 players in January 2014 in a fun collaboration to build the world’s first virtual peace village via Minecraft. Automatic translation was incorporated into the game’s chat system to allow natural conversation in multiple languages. Play for Peace events are organized with The Peace Factory, an Israeli social-media initiative. (via Israel21c)