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Due process
The Sherman proposal is anemic

July 20, 2000
The Iranian

As one who has been arguing often in counter-intuitive ways about the normalization of relations between the United States and Iran, I am beginning to think that time has come for a reassessment of that position. I believe, the efforts of a section of the Iranian diaspora, or expatriate community, to bring about an end to the U.S. administration's anti-Iranian policy is all the more reason for the Iranian government to obfuscate on the things that it must do in order to bring about normalization. Why should the Khatami government do anything of goodwill toward the United States as long as the Iranian-Americans are doing it for it?

During the "trial" of the "Shiraz 13," the rule of law, or its misrule, was evident in a variety of ways, but nothing was as ludicrous as the charge against a few of the accused for travelling to Israel. The Iranian Constitution guarantees freedom of worship to the Jew, and Jews are allowed to elect their own representative to the Iranian parliament. The Constitution also permits freedom of travel, but unless prohibited by law. A Jew therefore is brought up on charges of treason if he or she travels to the holy sites presently located in Israel. Does not a Jew have the same right to travel to places of pilgrimage as does a Moslem yearning to travel to Mecca or Medina in Saudi Arabia, or Najaf or Karbala in Iraq? Somehow the universal freedom of travel and universal right of worship mean diddle when it comes to the Jew in Iran. By the looks of it, the Iranian Moslem citizens do not fare any better either.

Representative Sherman from California and like-minded individuals, Iranian and American, believe that it is time to hold the Khatami regime to a higher standard of conduct. The label of "reformer" can no longer serve the Iranian president as an excuse for inaction in the face of wholesale and gross violations of the human rights of the citizen. The issue is no longer the denial of due process and therefore of justice to the Shiraz 13 accused of spying for Israel and the United States. The issue of due process and constitutional protection touches every Iranian, regardless of the nature of the crime, or religious or other differences.

The Sherman Bill has generated great debate in the Iranian-American community, creating bridges across ideological banks and at the same time it has resulted in rifts of opinion within groups previously though to be monolithic. While the intention of the Sherman Bill may be noble, its constitutionality, if enacted, is in serious doubt. The President might sign it to save his wife's campaign in new York, but chances are that he might veto it and it is doubtful that the Congress will have the votes to override the veto. The Sherman Bill is supposed to reverse the Executive branch's determination to lift the Deli Sanctions. The Bill would violate the U.S. Constitution's implied principle of separation of powers, as the Congress would be injecting itself, after the fact, into the conduct of foreign policy, an area that the Constitution has reserved exclusively for the President.

Similarly, the Sherman Bill's intention to undo the President's lifting of the sanctions would run afoul the Constitution's prohibition against passing retroactive legislation. The various presidents and President Clinton had imposed by executive order the Iran sanctions over time in reference to delegation of authority pursuant to a number of statutes. President Clinton's lifting of the sanctions last March by executive order was done in reference to the authority vested in him by those statutes. The Sherman Bill cannot reverse the President's actions retroactively. It can undertake to amend the basic enabling statutes so as to subject prospectively to Congressional approval any future Presidential action with respect the lifting of sanctions under those statutes.

The proper Constitutional form of the Sherman Bill aside, the opportunity has presented itself for the Congress to take decisive steps to help the Iranian American community further integrate itself into the American way of life, regardless of what happens or does not happen in Iran and with the Iranian government. Here are a few thoughts:

First, the Sherman Bill should recognize that the Iranian American community is minority group and that it is subject to an insidious form discrimination, particularly in matters of employment. Therefore, the U.S. administration should move to classify persons of Iranian origin as a protected minority, much like Hispanics, Africa-Americans, women, elderly, and Asian- Americans.

Second, the Sherman Bill should encourage greater immigration by Iranians to the United States, especially directly from Iran. Reminiscent of similar legislation with respect to the immigration of Jews and other dissidents from the Soviet Union, the Sherman Bill should encourage immigration and resettlement in the United States of any Iranian wishing to immigrate to the United States.

On his trip to Germany in early July, President Khatami stated to the German network DW that some seven hundred thousand new jobs most be created in the next few years to accommodate the youthful Iranian labor force. With its economy in dire straits, it is unlikely that the country can even produce one half of the jobs needed. In order to promote investment and spur economic activity, the Khatami government has asked the diaspora to return to Iran or, preferably, invest in the country. The Sherman Bill should take note of these developments and condition any favorable change in the U.S. attitude toward Iran on the Iranian government's absolute respect and regard for the due process.

Guive Mirfendereski is a professorial lecturer in international relations and law and practices law in Massachusetts.

Guive Mirfendereski articles' index

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