U.S. lawmakers seek repeal of Iran sanctions unless
By Amy Strahan
Bloomberg News, July 17, Washington -- Two Democrats in the U.S. House
said they will push to reverse a Clinton administration decision to ease
trade sanctions on Iran's reformist government unless Tehran releases 10
Jews convicted of spying for the U.S. and Israel.
Representative Bradley Sherman of California told a rally near the White
House that he will introduce legislation in few days to stop the import
of fruit, rugs, pistachios and caviar from Iran. Representative Robert
Wexler of Florida, Sherman's colleague on the House International Relations
Committee, said he will back the move.
The Clinton action to drop the ban on some goods as a gesture to Iran's
reformers "was a unilateral concession -- a gift to the Iranian government
-- and there has been no reciprocity," Sherman told about 200 members
of the Jewish community and other political activists.
Sherman called the spy trials in Iran "show trials that would have
embarrassed Joseph Stalin."
Jewish community leaders said they want to keep the issue on the front-burner
of U.S. foreign policy in hopes that U.S. leaders will encourage other
nations abroad to exert similar economic pressure on the Iranian government.
"We really have to keep pressure up from the European countries,
(because) they've already been very effective in getting Iran to listen,"
said David Bernstein, a spokesman for the American Jewish Committee. "Iran
is susceptible to this kind of pressure."
The U.S. Jewish community is outraged over the July 1 sentencing of
the 10 Jews and two Muslims by a court in the Iranian city of Shiraz, where
the judge also served as prosecutor and observers weren't allowed access
to the courtroom. The convicted Jews -- mostly teachers and merchants --
were sentenced to an average of 13 years each in prison.
Sherman called the spy charges against the 10 absurd, since Iranian
law prevents Jews from going near military or other sites of strategic
"If this is how Iran treats the opening of our market to their
pistachios and caviar, then it's time we close them down," Sherman
In March, the Clinton administration lifted some trade sanctions against
Iran as a goodwill gesture to a newly elected reform government, allowing
imports of fruits, nuts, caviar and carpets from Iran. U.S. Secretary of
State Madeleine Albright also promised the U.S. would work toward a "global
settlement" of outstanding legal claims each country has against the
Unresolved Iranian financial claims against the U.S. total between $2
billion and $5 billion, dating back mostly to contracts signed before 1979,
according to Robert Pelletreau, a former top U.S. policy-maker for the
Middle East. U.S. claims against Iran are far smaller, mostly relating
to the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran by student militants.
Relations between Iran and the U.S. broke off after the students seized
the embassy and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.
Iran remains on the U.S. list of countries it says sponsor terrorism.
That finding means, among other things, that the U.S. doesn't support renewed
World Bank lending to Iran and won't allow U.S. companies access to Iran's
market or its oil reserves.
Of Iran's 65 million people, about 20,000 to 30,000 are Jews, according
to the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington.