State Dept warns tightening visa waiver program may have ‘very negative impact’ on Iran nuke deal

The Obama administration seems less concerned about Iran testing medium-range missiles capable of delivering a nuclear weapon than about a measure that may affect normalization of trade and economic relations with the Persian Gulf country.

A senior State Department official told lawmakers that a provision in the massive spending bill passed on Friday by Congress will tighten the U.S. visa waiver program and could have “a very negative impact” on implementation of the Iran nuclear agreement, CNS News reported.

The $1.1-trillion omnibus bill contains a provision that would penalize citizens of the 38 visa waiver program (VWP) countries who, since March 201, have visited a U.S.-designated state-sponsor of terrorism (Iran, Syria and Sudan) or Iraq – by requiring them to apply for a visa for future travel to the U.S.

The Iran nuclear agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), includes a commitment by the U.S. and European Union member states not to take actions that will “adversely affect the normalization of trade and economic relations with Iran.”

 

Citizens from these 38 countries are allowed visa-free travel to the U.S., according to CNS News, but the changes included in the spending bill would revoke that privilege for those “who have visited Syria, Iraq, Iran or Sudan, and for foreigners from partner countries who also hold dual Iranian, Syrian, Sudanese or Iraqi citizenship.”

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., suggested this may violate the Iran nuclear agreement.

“We are about to pass a reform of the visa waiver program that will include in it a naming of Iran such that individuals who have traveled to Iran will no longer be eligible for the visa waiver program,” Murphy said Thursday during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.

“There has been a suggestion that there is a piece of the [nuclear] agreement that obligates us not to take steps that would stop economic relations between other countries and Iran – that we could perhaps be in jeopardy of breaching the agreement,” he warned.

The State Department’s coordinator for JCPOA implementation, Stephen Mull, told Murphy that both he and Secretary of State John Kerry were told by “very senior” European officials “that it could have a very negative impact on the deal,” CNS reported.

But don’t worry about those intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

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Tom Tillison

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