Lifting Iran Sanctions may be threatened by bill compensating American Hostages

Posting this from April in draft form right now….so far it has only been referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations 

CRS Report from July 30, 2015 The Iran Hostages:Efforts to Obtain Compensation

Many might be unaware that the 52 American mostly military and diplomatic personnel held hostage in Tehran for 444 days continue to strive for significant compensation for their ordeal. The former hostages and their families did receive a number of benefits under various civil service laws, and each hostage received from the U.S. government a cash payment of $50 for each day held hostage. The hostages have never received any compensation from Iran through court actions, all efforts having failed due to foreign sovereign immunity and an executive agreement known as the Algiers Accords, which bars such lawsuits. Congress took action to abrogate Iran’s sovereign immunity in the case Roeder v. Islamic Republic of Iran, but never successfully abrogated the executive agreement, leaving the plaintiffs with jurisdiction to pursue their case but without a judicial cause of action. Having lost their bids in the courts to obtain recompense, the former hostages have turned to Congress for relief. This report outlines the history of various efforts, including legislative efforts and court cases, and describes one bill currently before Congress, the Justice for Former American Hostages in Iran Act of 2015 (S. 868). 

Kristina Dei told me this is “not gonna happen.”  But here we go anyway.

One day after President Obama had threatened to veto a new bill in Congress that would prevent the White House from lifting Congressional economic sanctions on Iran, Obama has now said he would sign the new law.  Obama can still veto the vote that opposes the Iran deal.  Yesterday (April 14th) on NPR’s All Things Considered David Welna explained the changes to host Robert Siegel.

SIEGEL: David, as recently as yesterday, the White House said that President Obama would veto any bill that put constraints on his freedom to negotiate with Iran. Now the White House indicates that the president can support this bill. What changed?

WELNA: The bill changed. The period for a congressional review of the final deal, during which sanctions could not be lifted was shrunk from 60 days to 30 days in a bipartisan deal that was worked out last night. And the bill was also stripped of language that was a deal-breaker for the White House, which would have required that the president certify every 90 days to Congress that Iran had not been involved in any terrorist activities against the United States.

Now the bill simply requires that the president report to Congress any terrorist activities Iran may have been involved in. And with those changes, the White House was no longer wielding a veto threat today.

The deal could also be threatened by Iran if they continue to insist that sanctions be lifted at once and negotiators don’t agree to that condition.

“The end of these negotiations and a signed deal must include a declaration of cancelling the oppressive sanctions on the great nation of Iran,” said Rouhani

There are in place many sanctions against Iran.

State Dept

CRS Iran Sanctions March 2015

BBC Iran sanctions

But this bill could pose a threat to any lifting of sanctions later down the road.

Attached to the larger Iran negotiations bill is a bill (S. 868) that would seek compensation and justice for the hostages—most of whom endured torture– by imposing a 30 percent surcharge on the fines of any entity such as a business that violates economic sanctions against Iran.

TIME Joe Klein Iran

“The question is,” Ramin went on, “how can America remain the Great Satan if you’re making deals with them?” That’s why people were dancing in the streets of Tehran. “It was the prospect of a better economy, for sure, but it was also the hope that this was the beginning of the end of the Islamic Republic.”

Last December, it appeared justice might be served. Funds for hostage compensation were put in the U.S. budget. The money would come from fines collected from violators of sanctions against Iran—money not covered by the Algiers Accords. But that compensation was yanked from the budget at the last minute.

Now, with the Obama administration and Iran on the verge of a deal aiming to curb the Iranian nuclear program, Congress may act. A bill introduced by Senator Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) would provide compensation. How much? In recent years, a consensus among federal judges has been reached on the amount a hostage, if injured, should receive. Each of the 39 hostages still living—all of whom endured physical or mental injury—would get $10,000 for each day in captivity, and spouses and children would get half that figure.

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