Thursday, October 1, 2015, Congress is scheduled to vote on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2016. However, President Obama has threatened to veto the NDAA because one of the provisions would bar him from lifting Iranian sanctions under the JCPOA. Among several amendments incorporated in the NDAA that the President objects to is the Justice for Victims of Iranian Terrorism H.R.3457 sponsored by Rep. Pat Meeham (R-PA) as HR and in the Senate by Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill) , S 2086. As Ken Timmerman noted in his Threat Blog, the Act would:
Require the Islamic Republic of Iran to pay an estimated $43 billion to victims of terrorism before the U.S. government would unfreeze Iranian government assets under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal.”
Adam Kredo in a Washington Free Beacon article on the legislation noted the background and comments of Senator Kirk:
The $43 billion in damages to American terror victims were assessed as a result of some 50 U.S. court cases in recent years, according to official government estimates.
Iranian-backed terrorist groups, for example, have killed more than 700 Americans, including at least 290 in Lebanon over the past several decades. This accounts for the 241 U.S. service members murdered during the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing, which Iran sponsored.
Kirk said in the statement on the legislation:
Iran-sponsored terrorists have killed more Americans than the Islamic State. Families of Americans killed by Iranian-backed terrorism have used U.S. laws to take Iran to court and lawfully win approximately $43.5 billion in unsatisfied damages, so if the United States fails to ensure Iran fully pays these judgments before Iranian terror financiers get over $100 billion in sanctions relief, we risk emboldening Iran and other state sponsors of terror to continue targeting and killing more Americans.
One of those Americans was US Navy diver Chief Petty Officer Robert Stethem, was murdered by Hezbollah terrorist mastermind Imad Mughniyah during the 1985 hijacking of Trans World Airlines Flight 847. Another was teenager Danny Wultz of Weston, Florida who was mortally wounded in a suicide bombing by an operative of Iranian – sponsored terror group, Palestine Islamic Jihad at a Tel Aviv outdoor café in 2006 while vacationing with his father,Tuly, who survived the blast.
Stethem’s brother Kenneth, a former Navy SEAL joined Rep. Meeham and other Members of Congress Wednesday to draw attention to tomorrow’s vote on the NDAA incorporating the Iran Victims Terror Act. The Washington Free Beacon cited Kenneth Stethem’s comments:
Terrorism has become something more and more frequent because we haven’t developed an effective policy against it and we need to do that. I really believe this bill is the first step in doing that. He added that the passage of the legislation would offer “closure” for families of terror victims. My brother can never be brought back, but the people who perpetrated these acts on my brother and hundreds of other victims can and should be held accountable.
Watch this You Tube video that Rep. Meehan used to introduce the Justice for Iran Victims Act in the House:
Note what Meehan said:
We’re putting our victims to the side if we enable these dollars to be returned to Iran without any attachment to them.
Look, these are Marines who died protecting our barracks, these are American citizens who were sitting in cafes in Israel, and these are people who were hijacked in planes and murdered in cold blood after being tortured. It’s some small measure of accountability that [Iran] should be required to pay [these families] before the very money we now have some influence over is returned.
Rep. Meeham is running a Twitter campaign in support of the legislation using the hashtag, #NotOneCent.
Timmerman drew attention to the statement issued by the President’s Office of Management and Budget threatening a veto:
The Office of Management and Budget today issued a statement that it “strongly opposes” making Iran pay the terrorism claims, arguing that “obstructing implementation of the JCPOA would greatly undermine our national security interests.
President Obama will veto the bill if it makes it through to his desk, the OMB promised.
In the midst of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s Pentagon press conference over the controversial Russian bombing of Syrian targets, a thoughtful reporter, why the Administration would veto the NDAA incorporating the Justice for Victims of Iranian Terrorism Act. Watch this C-Span video excerpt of Secretary Carter’s response:
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of American victims of Iranian terrorism. Screenshot, U.S. Rep. Meeham Facebook, September 29, 2015.