Congress in November amended the 2000 Iran Nonproliferation Act and renamed it the “Iran and Syria Nonproliferation Act.”
The new measure would direct the president to impose additional sanctions against governments and individuals responsible for transferring missile, weapons of mass destruction, and advanced conventional weapons technologies to Syria, now placing transfers to that country on par with transfers to Iran. It would also broaden the scope of the sanctions to cover exports from those countries in addition to their imports and put additional pressure on governments involved in this trade. Whereas the past legislation only held foreign governmental entities liable under the sanctions provisions if they were “operating as a business enterprise,” foreign governments themselves will be liable under the new bill.
The act was amended to remove a clause which could have caused U.S. astronauts to lose access to the International Space Station. That clause prohibits the United States from making space station-related payments to Russia without a presidential certification of Russia’s nonproliferation compliance vis-à-vis Iran. But with the space shuttle program plagued by uncertainty, NASA wanted to retain the ability to use Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft for transportation to and from the space station.
House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) and ranking member Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) chose to add Syria to the legislation when it took up the legislation in October, a congressional source told Arms Control Today. “If the Bush administration was going to weaken an important nonproliferation law, they thought it best to take the same opportunity to strengthen and extend the same nonproliferation law,” this source said. The original Senate version, which was approved Sept. 21, did not contain the Syria provision. President George W. Bush signed the bill into law Nov. 22.
When Congress enacted the law in 2000, it targeted Russia and the Russian Space Agency because of persistent reports that Russia was violating the Missile Technology Control Regime and helping Iran develop ballistic missiles, as well as concern over Russia’s construction of Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor. The new bill waives restrictions on payments to Russia for space station-related services, including use of the Soyuz. The administration originally requested Congress permanently strike the purchase restrictions, but the new law only allows an exemption from the restrictions through the end of 2011.