Admin to Waive Counter-Terror Measures to Aid Iran
By Adam Kredo
Washington Free Beacon
February 24, 2016
The Obama administration has announced that it will not
enforce new counter-terrorism measures passed by an overwhelming bipartisan
majority in Congress because they could harm Iranian business interests,
according to new instructions issued by the Department of Homeland Security.
The administration’s decision to waive portions of a new
counter-terrorism law aimed at preventing terrorism-linked individuals from
traveling to the United States comes on the heels of a lobbying effort by
pro-Iran organizations and other Arab advocacy groups, including the Council on
American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR.
Congress last year tightened restrictions on the Visa
Waiver Program, which facilitates travel between the United States and 38 other
partner countries, to ensure that individuals from Iran and other countries with
a terrorist footprint do not enter the United States without first obtaining a
Top Iranian officials objected to
the new counter-terror measures, saying that they would harm Iranian business
interests and could force the Islamic Republic to walk away from the recently
implemented nuclear agreement.
Secretary of State John Kerry wrote to Iranian leaders in
December to assure them the Obama administration would waive the regulations, a
move that was enforced by DHS earlier this week.
“The administration has the authority to waive” the
counter-terrorism measures and will ensure they do not “interfere with
legitimate business interests of Iran,” Kerry wrote to Iranian Foreign
Minister Javad Zarif.
“Such waivers will be granted only on a case-by-case
basis in the near future,” DHS and U.S. Customs and Border Protection
announced this week. “Categories of travelers who may be eligible for a waiver
include individuals who traveled to these countries on behalf of international
organizations, regional organizations, and sub-national governments on official
duty; on behalf of humanitarian non-governmental organizations on official duty;
or as a journalist for reporting purposes.”
Additionally, “individuals who traveled to Iran (only
after July 14, 2015) or Iraq for legitimate business-related purposes may
be eligible for a waiver,” according to DHS.
Lawmakers and experts familiar with Iran’s efforts to use
military-controlled companies as a front to promote terrorism warned that the
move could enable terrorism-tied individuals to enter the United States.
“The Obama administration seems oblivious to the fact
that the Iranian regime systematically relies on Iranian dual nationals to
facilitate terrorism, illicit financial activities, dual-use procurement, and
industrial espionage,” said Emanuele Ottolenghi, an Iran expert at the
Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
“Iranian dual nationals traveling to the U.S. should
therefore be subject to enhanced due diligence rather than getting the benefit
of the Visa Waiver Program, even when they are businessmen who traveled to Iran
after the nuclear deal. There should be no substitute for a personal interview
with a consular officer,” Ottolenghi explained.
Sen. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.), who has led efforts to fight
against Iranian terrorism, expressed concern over the administration’s latest
“Congress passed a new law to strengthen the Visa Waiver
Program against terrorist infiltration to keep American families safe,” Kirk
told the Washington Free Beacon. “Rather than placating Iran’s
terror-sponsoring regime with waivers to water down that law, the administration
should demand Iran end its support for terrorism and provide tangible evidence
that it is doing so.”
Pro-Iran lobbyists have pushed the Obama administration to
waive the terror law, saying it discriminates against Iranian-Americans.
The National Iranian American Council, or NIAC, a pro-Iran
group long accused of lobbying on behalf of the Islamic Republic, recently
joined 46 Arab advocacy groups to petition DHS to waive the visa measures.
“Only by utilizing your legal authority waiver can this
administration protect dual nationals and shield targeting of these communities,
and protect U.S. law enforcement and national security interests in the
process,” NIAC and the other groups wrote to
DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson. “We strongly urge your administration to utilize
its authority to legally waive the dual nationality and travel ban provisions
under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention
Groups backing the effort to waive the measures include CAIR,
which was labeled by the FBI as an unindicted co-conspirator in a legal case
concerning the funneling of money to Hamas; the American-Arab
Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), a leading critic of Israel; and the Arab
American Institute, whose leader has
compared Israel to Nazis.
One foreign affairs operative familiar with the issue
criticized these groups for attempting to undermine efforts to bolster U.S.
“It’s normal that NIAC and CAIR would come together to
gut congressional anti-terror efforts. CAIR has been linked by the FBI to Sunni
terror plots,” the source said. “NIAC has been accused, even by members of
Congress, of shilling for the Shiite terror regime in Iran. It’s only