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Republicans Slam John Kerry for Suggesting Iran Could Bypass New Visa Rules

Republicans Slam John Kerry for Suggesting Iran Could Bypass New Visa Rules
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By    |   Tuesday, 22 December 2015 11:59 AM

Republicans railed at Secretary of State John Kerry's assurances of help to Iran to sidestep new visa restrictions — accusing him of "undermining" Congress.

"Instead of bending over backwards to try to placate the Iranian regime, the White House needs to be holding it accountable for its recent missile tests, its continued support for terrorism, and its wrongful imprisonment of Americans," House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., said in a statement to FoxNews.com.

At issue are tightened security requirements for America's visa waiver program that allow citizens of 38 countries to travel to the United States without visas.

Under changes in the newly signed omnibus spending bill, people from those countries who have traveled to Iran, Iraq, Syria and Sudan in the past five years must now obtain visas to enter the United States.

Tehran threw a fit, complaining those changes violate the terms of the nuclear deal, which says the U.S. and other world powers will refrain from any policy intended to adversely affect normalization of trade and economic relations with Iran.

So Kerry, in a Dec. 19 letter to his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif — initially obtained by the National Iranian American Council — suggested the administration could simply bypass the rules for Iran.

"I am also confident that the recent changes in visa requirements passed in Congress, which the Administration has the authority to waive, will not in any way prevent us from meeting our [nuclear deal] commitments, and that we will implement them so as not to interfere with legitimate business interests of Iran," he declares in the letter.

And he also assured Zarif that America would "adhere to the full measure of our commitments," and floated several alternative options to ease the impact on Iran from changes to the visa program — including waiving the new requirements.

Fox News notes the new legislation does include a provision allowing the Homeland Security secretary to waive the requirements if the secretary determines this "is in the law enforcement or national security interests of the United States."

But House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., in a statement, raised concern about a possible "blanket" waiver to accommodate Iran's complaints — which was never Congress' intent.

"Contrary to what the Secretary of State seems to be saying to Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, it was not and has never been Congress's intent to allow the Administration to grant a blanket waiver to travelers from Iran in order to facilitate the implementation of the Iran deal," he said.

McCarthy said the point of the legislation was to strengthen security and "keep the American people safe from terrorism and from foreign travelers who potentially pose a threat to our homeland."

He added:

"Instead of undermining Congressional intent regarding the visa waiver program, the White House should instead focus on Iran's repeated violations of the U.N. Security Council's bans on missile tests. Iran’s unwillingness to follow these international agreements should be a red flag that the Iran nuclear deal isn’t worth the paper it is written on."

Much is at stake, Bloomberg News columnists Eli Lake and Josh Rogin write.

"In February, Iran will have parliamentary elections and elections for the powerful assembly of experts, the committee of clerics that would choose the next supreme leader of Iran after Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dies," the writers argue. "If anti-deal elements win those elections, the future of the nuclear deal will be dim."

"These factors explain why Kerry has been willing to overlook Iran's own provocations while trying to mitigate what Iran sees as provocations from the U.S. Congress," they add. "They also explain why Iran seems so intent to provoke the U.S. at the moment it's supposed to implement the deal to which it just agreed."

The revelation of the Kerry letter comes in the wake of Iranian officials' accusations that the United States is running afoul of the nuclear deal, including complaints from Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi.

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Republicans railed at Secretary of State John Kerry's assurances of help to Iran to sidestep new visa restrictions - accusing him of "undermining" Congress.
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Tuesday, 22 December 2015 11:59 AM
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