White House opposes bill blocking Iran nuclear deal

Associated Press

The House votes Thursday on a bill aimed at blocking implementation of the Iran nuclear deal until Tehran pays more than $43 billion in damages that U.S. courts have awarded to victims of Iranian-sponsored terror.

The White House said Wednesday that President Barack Obama would veto the bill, saying that the Iran nuclear deal addresses only nuclear issues. It said the bill would result in the collapse of the international agreement aimed at preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

The bill, written by Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Patrick Meehan, would prohibit the president from lifting sanctions on Iran until it pays the victims billions in compensation. "Not one cent has been paid by Iran toward those damages," Meehan said.

The bill legislation has more than 100 co-sponsors in the House. Its prospects are uncertain in the Senate where Democrats stood behind the president and recently blocked a vote to disapprove of the deal.

Kenneth Stethem, a former Navy Seal and brother of U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem, who was killed by Hezbollah during the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847, gave an impassioned plea Wednesday in favor of the bill. The Stethem family was awarded more than $300 million in damages in 2002 by the U.S. District Court in Washington, but Stethem said his family did not lobby for the bill and learned about it less than 24 hours before he spoke to reporters.

"The people who perpetrated these acts on my brother and hundreds of other victims should and can be held accountable with the passage of this bill," Stethem said, fighting back tears.

"For those who remember the smell of the World Trade Center. For those who have lost loved ones or seen their parents lose children, you can never forget," said Stethem, who has a younger brother who was in the Pentagon on 9-11. He said if the president and Congress do not fight for the victims now "When will they?"

California Republican Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Obama should have made the deal contingent on Iran paying the victims' claims. The accord will provide Iran hundreds of billions of dollars in relief from international sanctions in exchange for a decade of constraints on the country's nuclear program.

"Why we would not want our citizens compensated, but allow this tranche of funds to go into the hands of the IRGC is certainly beyond me," Royce said referring to Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard.

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