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Zoe Lofgren announces support of Iran nuclear deal

Rep. Zoe Lofgren announced Friday that she’ll support the P5+1 nuclear agreement with Iran.

Lofgren, D-San Jose, said she has read the agreement and related classified materials, taken part in classified briefings, listened to scholars and experts, talked with President Obama and Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz and members of the negotiating team, and consulted her constituents.

“I have concluded that this agreement is in the best interests of the United States and the world,” she said. “This agreement walks Iran back from its current status as a threshold nuclear power. It requires the removal of the nuclear material required for a bomb, and prohibits anything but peaceful nuclear power in the future.”

She said if Iran tries to cheat, the world will find out quickly and we would then have the same tools available to deal with Iran that we have today – sanctions, or military force.

“Iran has been a hostile, negative and disruptive force. It has supported terrorists that threaten our allies and fomented war and violence. The agreement is not based on the hope or expectation that Iran will become peaceful and friendly, although all would welcome that development should it occur,” Lofgren said. “It is important to remember that this agreement will not relieve, nor preclude, the United States or our allies from our obligation to counter future Iranian aggression or terrorism with appropriate economic or military responses.”

But arms control agreements are always negotiated with enemies, not with friends, she noted. “When nuclear arms control agreements were forged with the Soviet Union, they were our enemy and posed a grave threat to the world. It was still better to limit the proliferation of nuclear weapons by negotiated agreement.”

Posted on Friday, August 21st, 2015
Under: Iran, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 1 Comment »

Mike Honda supports nuclear deal with Iran

Rep. Mike Honda, previously one of several Bay Area House Democrats who were still on the fence regarding the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran, announced Thursday that he will support it.

honda.jpg“It is time to change the narrative with Iran and give peace a chance,” Honda said in an e-mailed statement, adding that reviewing the deal “has been one of the most substantial foreign policy decisions I have faced in Congress.”

Honda, D-San Jose, said that after meeting with Obama administration officials, experts, organizations, and constituents across the Bay Area to discuss the proposed deal’s specifics, he has come to believe it’s “the best way to verifiably prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.”

“The inspections, while not perfect, will open up Iran’s nuclear program and allow the international community to ensure firsthand that Iran does not have the materials nor the technologies to develop a nuclear weapon,” he said. “Should Iran not comply with the inspections and conditions of the agreement then the crippling international sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiating table will snap back into effect and once again isolate the Iranian regime.”

“Failure to accept this deal will likely not stop the easing of international sanctions and will squander the current international unity resulting in the United States having a far weaker negotiating position for possible alternative deals,” he added. “This agreement marks a first step, not a last step, in a long process of reengaging with Iran and ensuring that Iran permanently moves down a path away from nuclear weapons.”

He congratulated President Obama and the international negotiators who hashed out the deal.

“It is time to change the rhetoric, embrace diplomacy, and move away from unproductive saber rattling,” he said. “I will vote in favor of this deal, in favor of a nuclear weapons-free Iran, in favor of opening up the Iranian people to the world, and in favor of changing the broken paradigm that for decades has failed to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions and bring a lasting peaceful solution.”

UPDATE @ 2:50 P.M.: Now Rep. Jerry McNerney has announced his support as well.

Jerry McNerney“I previously supported heavy sanctions against Iran as a means to block them from building a nuclear weapon. These sanctions alone, however, were not enough to stop Iran’s ongoing nuclear pursuit. Further diplomatic efforts with Iran became necessary, and those multilateral talks resulted in the JCPOA currently before Congress,” McNerney, D-Stockton, said in an emailed statement.

“I support this agreement because I believe the security of the United States will be better served if it is accepted by Congress,” he continued. “Standing together with our international partners, this agreement takes significant steps to deter Iran from building a nuclear weapon. It also still allows us to protect the interests of Israel and our other allies in the region.”

The deal would take Iran from its current two-month breakout time to produce a nuclear weapon to about a one-year period, McNerney said. “At the same time, the inspection requirements built into the agreement will have provided the United States with better capabilities to detect any questionable activity and take whatever action is necessary to stop Iran. Those provisions will put our country in a better, more secure position in 10 years than that of having no deal with Iran today.”

If Congress rejects the deal, “the chances of Iran continuing to restrain its nuclear ambitions and returning to the table are slim,” he concluded. “The better course of action is for Congress to accept the agreement and to closely monitor its implementation to ensure that Iran abides by the terms and obligations and works diplomatically to improve the stability and security of the Middle East.”

Posted on Thursday, August 20th, 2015
Under: Iran, Jerry McNerney, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

Where Bay Area lawmakers stand on the Iran deal

As House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi continues rolling out Democratic supporters one by one, almost half of the Bay Area’s House delegation has not yet committed to support or oppose the P5+1 nuclear agreement with Iran.

U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein have said they’ll vote for the agreement, as have Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and representatives Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin; Sam Farr, D-Carmel; and Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo.

Most recently on the bandwagon are Swalwell and Farr, both Wednesday, and then Speier on Friday. Speier said in her statement that this is “one of the most important votes I will ever cast.

Jackie Speier“To come to this decision I attended scores of hearings, classified briefings, and met with U.S. allies, my Republican and Democratic colleagues, foreign policy experts, nongovernmental groups, the military and intelligence communities, and my constituents. I also met with the President for over two hours to discuss this deal,” she said.

“As President Kennedy once urged, we must pursue ‘a more practical, more attainable peace, based… on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned.’ This deal, like those Kennedy pursued with the Soviet Union, is a first step away from catastrophe,” Speier said. “So as he said, ‘Let us persevere. Peace need not be impracticable and war need not be inevitable.’ ”

No Bay Area members of Congress have come out against the deal, but five still aren’t ready to say where they stand: Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; and Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael.

“It’s my first big, consequential foreign policy vote, so I wanted to avail myself to learn as much as I could,” DeSaulnier said Friday, adding that while he sees no need to rush the decision during this month-long recess, “I’m leaning very much to support the president’s agreement.”

Mark DeSaulnierHe said has met both with President Obama in Washington, and then with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his recent trip to Israel with other Democratic House freshmen. “I promised both sides I would listen to them.”

And he said he’s reserving final judgment until after he completes five town-hall meetings he has scheduled for constituents over the next few weeks. In fact, he’s dedicating the second half of his first such meeting – 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 18 in the community room at Pleasant Hill Middle School, 1 Santa Barbara Road in Pleasant Hill – to this issue.

Honda spokeswoman Lauren Smith said Thursday her boss “is continuing to meet with people and get input and feedback, as well as fully considering all of the details of the deal. He will make a decision once he has collected all pertinent information.”

Lofgren’s chief of staff, Stacey Leavandosky, said Thursday her boss “is currently studying the agreement, meeting with constituents about it as well as hearing from Administration officials.”

McNerney spokesman Mike Naple said Thursday his boss “is still reviewing the agreement and hasn’t made a decision yet.”

And Huffman spokesman Paul Arden referred to his boss’s July 15 statement, in which he had said that “while I will vote based on the merits of the agreement, Iran’s credibility and trustworthiness are also considerations.”

UPDATE @ 1 P.M. THURSDAY 8/20: Mike Honda has just announced that he supports the deal.

UPDATE @ 2:55 P.M. THURSDAY 8/20: And now Jerry McNerney is on board, too.

UPDATE @ 5:30 P.M. FRIDAY 8/21: Lofgren now says she will vote in favor of the deal.

Posted on Friday, August 14th, 2015
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, Eric Swalwell, Iran, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Mark DeSaulnier, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Sam Farr, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | 12 Comments »

Boxer, Eshoo, Schiff support Iran nuclear deal

Californians are adding their voices to the growing chorus of Democratic support for the P5+1 multilateral agreement on Iran’s nuclear activity.

Barbara BoxerU.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. – long a supporter of strong U.S.-Israel ties – issued a statement Tuesday supporting the deal despite Israel’s opposition.

“I am more convinced than ever that a rejection of the Iran nuclear agreement would be a victory for Iranian hardliners and would accelerate their ability to obtain a nuclear weapon,” Boxer said. “Iran now has enough nuclear material to build ten bombs. In my view, this agreement is the only way to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is used exclusively for civilian purposes, which is in the best interest of the United States, Israel and the world.”

“If we walk away from this deal, Iran would have no constraints on its nuclear program and the international sanctions that helped bring the Iranians to the table would collapse,” she added. The strong support from the international community – including the announcement this week by the Gulf states – underscores how this deal is the only viable alternative to war with Iran.”

Boxer’s statement came one day after Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, voiced her own support in a statement explaining “one of the most consequential foreign policy votes I will cast during my tenure in Congress.”

“In the face of a legitimate threat of immense magnitude from a nuclear-capable Iran, I believe this agreement is the right path forward,” Eshoo said. “My decision is not based on trusting Iran. To the contrary, the regime has a long list of offenses that I deeply object to, but there must be a mechanism in place to keep them from becoming a nuclear power. Nor would I suggest the agreement is perfect. But, in my view, to reject it would be a grave mistake for the United States, a repudiation of our allies in the effort, a danger to Israel, and further deterioration in the Middle East.”

Adam SchiffAlso Monday, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank – the House Intelligence Committee’s ranking Democrat – issued a statement of support that said the deal “realistically precludes Iran from developing an atomic bomb for fifteen or more years, and does so while reducing the chances of war.”

“As an American and as a Jew who is deeply concerned about the security of Israel, it is also intensely personal,” Schiff said. “I believe our vital interests have been advanced under the agreement, since it would be extremely difficult for Iran to amass enough fissionable material to make a nuclear weapon without giving the United States ample notice and time to stop it.”

Posted on Tuesday, August 4th, 2015
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Boxer, International, Iran, Israel, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 1 Comment »

Reactions for and against the Iran nuclear deal

Members of Congress are weighing in for or against the framework for a final agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program, reached by a group of world powers including the United States and announced today by the White House.

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., a Foreign Relations Committee member:

Barbara Boxer“Now that all parties have agreed to a framework, Congress has a choice: support these negotiations or disrupt them and potentially jeopardize this historic opportunity to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

“We don’t yet know the details of a final deal, but initial reports are promising, and if the U.S. had prematurely ended talks on nuclear issues in the past, we would never have had historic and critical international agreements like the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the New START Treaty.

“The Obama Administration has worked tirelessly to reach this point and I will work to ensure that Congress has the patience to support this diplomatic effort because the risks of walking away from the table are simply too high.”

From U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who led 46 other senators in writing to Iran to undermine the negotiations:

Tom Cotton“There is no nuclear deal or framework with Iran; there is only a list of dangerous U.S. concessions that will put Iran on the path to nuclear weapons. Iran will keep a stockpile of enriched uranium and thousands of centrifuges—including centrifuges at a fortified, underground military bunker at Fordow. Iran will also modernize its plutonium reactor at Arak. Iran won’t have to disclose the past military dimensions of its nuclear program, despite longstanding UN demands. In addition, Iran will get massive sanctions relief up front, making potential “snap-back” sanctions for inevitable Iranian violations virtually impossible.

“Contrary to President Obama’s insistence, the former deputy director of the UN’s nuclear watchdog has said terms such as these will allow Iran to achieve nuclear breakout in just a few months, if not weeks. But in any case, even these dangerous terms will expire in just 10-15 years, even though it only took North Korea 12 years to get the bomb after it signed a similar agreement in 1994.

“These concessions also do nothing to stop or challenge Iran’s outlaw behavior. Iran remains the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism. Iranian aggression is destabilizing the Middle East. And Iran continues to hold multiple Americans hostage.

“I will work with my colleagues in the Senate to protect America from this very dangerous proposal and to stop a nuclear arms race in the world’s most volatile region.”

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“If fully implemented, today’s framework agreement would prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon, enhance our national security and show that diplomacy works.

“This is a major step forward for diplomacy, national security and global peace. This type of smart, strategic diplomacy brings us closer to a more peaceful and secure world while promoting U.S. national security.

“I applaud President Obama, Secretary Kerry and his diplomatic team for negotiating this framework agreement that promotes regional and global security.

“Today’s announcement is an important achievement for diplomacy, non-proliferation and President Obama.”

From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

John Boehner“The president says negotiators have cleared the basic threshold needed to continue talks, but the parameters for a final deal represent an alarming departure from the White House’s initial goals. My longtime concerns about the parameters of this potential agreement remain, but my immediate concern is the administration signaling it will provide near-term sanctions relief. Congress must be allowed to fully review the details of any agreement before any sanctions are lifted.

“After visiting with our partners on the ground in the Middle East this week, my concerns about Iran’s efforts to foment unrest, brutal violence and terror have only grown. It would be naïve to suggest the Iranian regime will not continue to use its nuclear program, and any economic relief, to further destabilize the region.

“In the weeks ahead, Republicans and Democrats in Congress will continue to press this administration on the details of these parameters and the tough questions that remain unanswered. We will stand strong on behalf of the American people and everyone in the Middle East who values freedom, security, and peace.”

More, after the jump…
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Posted on Thursday, April 2nd, 2015
Under: Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Iran, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 3 Comments »

Boxer & Feinstein blast GOP senators’ Iran letter

California’s U.S. Senators say 47 Republicans led by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., went out of bounds by sending an open letter to Iran’s leaders to undermine the State Department’s work to reach a comprehensive nuclear deal.

The letter notes any treaty the Obama administration might ink would require a two-thirds Senate vote for ratification, and another type of agreement would require two-thirds votes of the House and Senate. “Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement,” it says, before observing that Obama will leave office in 2017 “while most of us will remain in office well beyond then – perhaps decades.”

“What these two constitutional provisions mean is that we will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei,” the letter says. “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”

Before anyone goes saying, “Aw, gee, that’s just a ‘Schoolhouse Rock!‘ lesson in American government, no harm done,” consider how inane and condescending it would be to believe Iran’s government and negotiators don’t know how our government works.

Clearly it’s Republicans’ attempt to scuttle these negotiations without running afoul of the Logan Act – a federal law that makes it a felony for any American to attempt to negotiate with a foreign government or attempt to influence foreign policy without clear authority from the executive branch. By sticking to an explanation of how Congress and the executive branch work, the Republicans can say they’re just engaging in discussions with foreign officials in pursuance of their legislative duties under the Constitution – perfectly legal.

Of course, Cotton said plainly in January that he hoped to scuttle these negotiations. He also was ready to upend the Constitution in 2013, proposing to imprison the families of anyone who violates U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Democrats reacted to Cotton’s ploy angrily Monday.

From Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

“This is a brazen attempt by Senate Republicans to sabotage negotiations aimed at preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. This bizarre, inappropriate letter is a desperate ploy to scuttle a comprehensive agreement and the chance for a peaceful resolution, which is in the best interests of the United States, Israel and the world.”

From Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

“I am appalled at the latest step of 47 Republicans to blow up a major effort by our country and the world powers to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the Iranian nuclear program.

“This is a highly inappropriate and unprecedented incursion into the president’s prerogative to conduct foreign affairs and is not befitting this chamber. This letter only serves one purpose—to destroy an ongoing negotiation to reach a diplomatic agreement in its closing days.”

Posted on Monday, March 9th, 2015
Under: Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Iran, Obama presidency, U.S. Senate | 24 Comments »

Who will skip Netanyahu’s speech to Congress?

The Bay Area delegation is split over attending Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of Congress next Tuesday, March 3.

Democrats and the White House remain miffed that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, invited Netanyahu unilaterally. The Israeli leader is expected to speak against the Obama administration’s ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, instead urging Congress to impose further sanctions; also, the address comes two weeks before Israel’s legislative election. For these reasons, and as some pro-Palestinian groups urge a boycott, some Democrats are choosing to skip the speech.

Here’s how the Bay Area delegation shakes out:

Skipping the speech: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose

Attending the speech: U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin; Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz

Undecided: U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.; Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa

Didn’t respond to inquiries: Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo

A few of them offered explanations, or at least, comments:

Lofgren: “I am disappointed Speaker Boehner chose to irresponsibly interject politics into what has long been a strong and bipartisan relationship between the United States and Israel. As President Obama has noted, it is inappropriate for a Head of State to address Congress just two weeks ahead of their election. I agree that Congress should not be used as a prop in Israeli election campaigns, so I intend to watch the speech on TV in my office.”

Huffman: “I call upon Speaker Boehner and Ambassador Dermer to do the right thing and postpone this speech. Once the election in Israel is over and the current P5+1 negotiating deadline has passed, they should respect protocol and confer with President Obama and congressional Democrats on a time for the Prime Minister of Israel to address a joint session of Congress.”

Boxer: “Whether I wind up going or not, it was a terrible mistake by the Republican majority to play politics with this enduring relationship.”

McNerney, via spokesman Michael Cavaiola: “Rep. McNerney is not planning to attend the speech. He’s got several previously planned commitments for that day.”

DeSaulnier, via spokeswoman Betsy Arnold Marr: “Congressman DeSaulnier has not made a final decision as he hopes the Prime Minister will reconsider his plans particularly in light of the upcoming election.”

Honda, via spokesman Ken Scudder: “Congressman Honda regrets that Speaker Boehner ignored protocol in making this invitation. The speaker turned what should have been an important visit of one of our closest allies into a political stunt. Congressman Honda also has concerns about the potential political nature of this speech given Israel’s elections are less than two weeks away. Despite this, and the congressman’s disagreement with the Prime Minister’s opposition to the U.S. nuclear negotiations with Iran, Congressman Honda is going to attend the address on March 3. The United States and Israel share strong cultural, economic and security partnerships, and he will attend the speech to hear firsthand what the Prime Minister has to say on these serious and complicated issues.”

Thompson, via spokesman Austin Vevurka: “We still don’t know what the Congressman’s schedule will be that week, but I will of course keep you posted as we know more. That being said, Congressman Thompson understands the importance of hearing from international leaders, but he is concerned that the speech has become overtly political. He hopes the speech is rescheduled and Netanyahu is invited back at a later date in a manner that respects long-established diplomatic protocol.”

Posted on Wednesday, February 25th, 2015
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, Eric Swalwell, Iran, Israel, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, John Boehner, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Obama presidency, Sam Farr, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | 24 Comments »

Poizner sues to further Iran divestiture

California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner says he’s suing to challenge last month’s finding by the state’s administrative regulation watchdog that his efforts to stop insurers from investing in Iran amount to an “underground regulation.”

The Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit – in which Poizner is represented by state Attorney General (and Governor-elect) Jerry Brown – contests the California Office of Administrative Law determination – which had been sought by insurance companies – and seeks to clarify Poizner’s authority to address “insurer support of the Iranian terror regime and the solvency of insurer investment portfolios,” his office said in a news release.

“I intend to ensure that any insurance company licensed in California is not doing business, in any way, with the Iranian regime,” Poizner said in the release. “Insurance premium dollars that Californians pay should not end up supporting a regime that has shown time and time again its disregard for the concerns of the global community. The consensus is clear, as seen in the sanctions that the United Nations, the European Union, the U.S. government, and the California Legislature have imposed over the past two years — responsible businesses should not be doing business with Iran. Since companies doing business with Iran face financial risk, I have the authority to protect insurer portfolios from investments in those companies.”

Poizner’s release said recent statements by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates indicate divestment actions like this and other sanctions are “posing significant hurdles to the country’s ability to develop nuclear weapons.”

Poizner in June 2009 launched an initiative to identify Iran-related investments in the portfolios of insurers doing business in California, asking that the 1,300 insurers licensed here identify all investments in companies doing business with the Iranian nuclear, defense, and energy sectors. His department identified 50 companies, including the well-known corporations Royal Dutch Shell and Siemens, with ongoing business activities in Iran. This spring, Poizner requested a “moratorium,” calling on insurers not to make any new investments in companies on his list; more than 1,000 signed onto this moratorium.

Poizner’s release says financial reports that insurers file quarterly with his department show his initiative produced change: The insurance industry last year had invested nearly $1 billion in companies on his list, but that figure plummeted to $32 million in new investments during 2010’s second quarter of 2010, the first quarter in which the moratorium was in effect. The value of existing insurer investments in companies on the list declined by $337 million dollars in 2010, indicating that some insurers are moving beyond the moratorium and actually divesting Iran-related assets that had been acquired over the previous two decades.

“These numbers tell a promising story, both in the reduced involvement of California insurers in Iranian business activities and by demonstrating that insurers can drop companies on the Department’s list from their investment portfolios without adversely affecting their investment returns,” Poizner said.

UPDATE @ 4:14 P.M.: The Association of California Life and Health Insurance Companies, Association of California Insurance Companies, Personal Insurance Federation of California, American Insurance Association and American Council of Life Insurers just issued this joint statement:

“Our associations asked the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) to review the Department of Insurance’s directives on insurer investments because we believe that the department, just like all other state agencies, must obey the law.

“When the Department of Insurance adopts regulations, it must follow the requirements that the Legislature established in the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The OAL determined last month that the department should have followed the APA when the department issued its directives. We believe the OAL is correct.

“Our associations do not support or defend any insurer that makes investments that violate state or federal law, which prohibit investments in Iran and other terrorist regimes. We asked the OAL for a determination simply to resolve the issue of the Department of Insurance’s compliance with the APA.”

UPDATE @ 1:50 P.M. WEDNESDAY: OAL Director Susan Lapsley is not amused, according to a statement she issued in response to Poizner’s announcement. Read all about it, after the jump…
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Posted on Tuesday, November 9th, 2010
Under: Iran, Steve Poizner | No Comments »

Lawmakers urge Iran to release hikers

California’s U.S. Senators were among six who today announced a resolution urging the Iranian government to immediately, unconditionally release three UC Berkeley graduates who have been detained in Iran since last July.

Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of Sarah Shourd’s, Josh Fattal’s and Shane Bauer’s capture hiking in a poorly marked border area in Iraq’s Kurdistan region. Senators Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.; Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Robert Casey Jr., D-Pa.; Al Franken, D-Minn.; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; and Arlen Specter, D-Pa., introduced today’s resolution.

Boxer, Casey, Franken, Klobuchar and Specter in May publicly urged Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to immediately release the three hikers, or at least that their families be allowed to visit them; the hikers mothers subsequently were allowed to visit.

The full text of the Senators’ resolution:

Urging the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Immediately and Unconditionally Release Sarah Shourd, Joshua Fattal, and Shane Bauer on Humanitarian Grounds
Whereas on July 31, 2009, Sarah Shourd, Josh Fattal, and Shane Bauer were taken into custody by Iranian officials after they may have inadvertently crossed the poorly marked Iranian border while hiking in the Kurdistan region of Iraq;
Whereas Sarah, Josh, and Shane have been held since last year in Evin prison in Tehran;
Whereas the amount of time Sarah, Josh and Shane have spent in prison is unjustified in relation to their alleged offense of illegal entry into Iran;
Whereas during the period of their detention, Sarah, Josh, and Shane have only been afforded the opportunity to see their families during a brief visit in May;
Whereas according to their families, Sarah and Shane may be suffering from potentially serious health problems;
Whereas the families of Sarah, Josh and Shane have suffered greatly in the absence of their loved ones;
Whereas July 31, 2010 will mark the one-year anniversary of their detention;
Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the Senate, That Congress—
recognizes that Sarah Shourd, Joshua Fattal, and Shane Bauer have been held in custody in Iran for one year; and
urges the Government of Iran to immediately and unconditionally release Sarah Shourd, Joshua Fattal, and Shane Bauer, on humanitarian grounds and allow them to reunite with their families in the United States.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, also released a statement on the hikers today. Read that after the jump…
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Posted on Friday, July 30th, 2010
Under: Arlen Specter, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, Iran, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 1 Comment »

Local Iranians fret over opposition group’s fate

As my colleague Matt O’Brien wrote back in August, Iranian-Americans in the Bay Area continue to worry about the fate of an Iranian opposition group that has been living in Iraq for decades, but may now be in danger from the new U.S.-supported Iraqi regime.

Hamid Azimi of Albany, a spokesman for the Iranian-American Community of Northern California, said today the U.S. government isn’t doing enough to ensure members of the People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran – a group of Iranian dissidents who oppose the Islamic government that has ruled Iran since 1979 – won’t be put in harm’s way as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki follows through with a plan to relocate them this week from “Camp Ashraf,” the group’s settlement since the mid-1980s. All Washington has done so far is “urge caution.”

U.S.-led coalition forces disarmed the group in 2003, and protected the settlement until turning authority over to Iraqi security forces at the start of this year – a move that struck fear into the group’s supporters’ hearts, as they believe the Iranian government has considerable influence over the new Iraqi regime. Indeed, a July skirmish between Iraqi security forces and camp residents claimed 11 residents’ lives, leaving hundreds wounded. (See some video here.)

But despite high-visibility tactics such as hunger-strikes, Iranian-Americans have found it hard to build a lot of concern and sympathy for the PMOI, as the U.S. government has designated it as a foreign terrorist organization since 1997 (a move some said was meant as an olive branch to the somewhat reformist regime then in power in Iran).

Rep. Bob Filner’s H.Res.704, “deploring the ongoing violence by Iraqi security forces against the residents of Camp Ashraf in Iraq,” has amassed bipartisan support from 115 cosponsors since the San Diego Democrat introduced it at the end of July. Among those co-sponsors are Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma; and Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

As advocates for and relatives of Camp Ashraf residents prepare for an event tomorrow in Washington, Azimi – whose wife’s cousin lives at Ashraf – wants the public to turn up the pressure on members of Congress who haven’t already signed onto Filner’s legislation, in order to create pressure in turn on the State Department to intervene. So far, Azimi says, “The State Department is very interested in making sure there is not democracy in Iran, they are very adamant about it.”

Posted on Monday, December 14th, 2009
Under: Iran, Iraq, Uncategorized | No Comments »