The Sherman proposal is anemic
July 20, 2000
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.
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