Monday, 23 July, 2018

Visa Waiver Reform: Iran Should Not Be Included As A “High-Risk” Country


By: Morteza Soleymannezhad

On December 8th, in the wake of the attacks in Paris, the House overwhelmingly voted to pass the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) reform bill to enhance and bolster the national security. This reform bill that was initially introduced by Rep. Candice Miller introduces many promising and effective security enhancements such as the use of a multi-layered and comprehensive system of security screening and enhanced sharing of intelligence between the VWP countries and the US. As president Obama has openly endorsed the increase of security measures to prevent terrorist activities and has signed the omnibus bill into law that includes this VWP reform bill, there is no doubt that this reform law will remarkably increase national security.

The reform bill initially only introduced Syria and Iraq as “High-Risk” countries; however, the bill took an unexpected turn to include Iran as a “High-Risk” country as well. This move unsurprisingly has caused some international controversy as it opaquely contradicts the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – a.k.a Iranian Nuclear Deal – that United States along with United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China signed with Iran in July 2015.

Under the paragraph 29, US has agreed to “refrain from any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalization of trade and economic relations with Iran”. Even though this reform bill will not directly affect the “normalization of trade” in Iran, it will indirectly alter the successful recovery of the Iranian post-sanction economy. No one can argue that this VWP reform law is in clear contradiction of US’s commitments under the Iranian nuclear agreement. However, one can argue that under this VWP reform law, US is acting in “Bad Faith” in obliging to its commitments under the JCPOA. This might not completely dismantle the JCOPA, but it could have a very negative impact on the smooth and flawless implementation of JCPOA.

On December 17th, Sen. Chris Murphy alluded to this very issue in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. Moreover, in the same hearing, State Department’s coordinator of JCPOA implementation, Stephen Mull, mentioned that “very senior” European officials believe that this reform bill “could have a very negative impact on the [Iranian Nuclear] deal”. I believe this is true as the VWP reform law will create an impediment for the European and Asian countries to do business with Iran which consequently will result in a very slow recovery of the Iranian economy in post-sanction time.

The “late” addition of Iran as a “High-Risk” country indicate that Iran has been caught in the political crossfire between democrats and republicans yet again. This does not come as a surprise especially when all the republican representatives in both congress and senate voted to overturn the nuclear deal that the state department negotiated with Iran.

Source: Forbes Magazine

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