[caption id="attachment_43991" align="alignleft" width="240"] U.S. Senator David Vitter (R-LA)[/caption]
In a letter to the State Department, U.S. Senator David Vitter (R-LA) questions whether the Obama administration is currently violating U.S. sanctions on Iran by allowing Iranian students to study fields such as nuclear engineering at universities in the United States.
Vitter also wants a complete list of all U.S. colleges and universities currently permitting Iranian students into “business, management or computer science, nuclear science or engineering, or any other field that could be used to benefit Iran’s oil, natural gas or nuclear energy sectors."
There are currently laws in place that do not allow students from Iran to take courses that would prepare them for work in the Iranian energy sector. Currently, the U.S. State Department and Department on Homeland Security (DHS) are required to decline student visas and access to any person “who is a citizen of Iran and is applying to participate in coursework at an institution of higher education to prepare for a career in the energy sector of Iran or in nuclear science or nuclear engineering or a related field in Iran."
Vitter's letter comes after a decision by the University of Massachusetts, Amherst to continue accepting students from Iran into the school's nuclear engineering programs.
“I am deeply concerned over recent reports that the Department of State is attempting to circumvent existing U.S. law to place Universities into the unnecessary position of deciding whether or not to allow students from countries we currently have economic sanctions against—Iran in particular—to pursue specifically restricted material.
“Inappropriately, the State Department wants to allow Iranian students to study nuclear engineering, among other programs at U.S. universities, even though our U.S. sanctions on Iran are due to Iran’s threat of developing nuclear weapons.
“In the interest of our national security, as the State Department’s Inspector General, request that you investigate the State Department’s position on Iranian students in sensitive fields of study and what guidance they are giving academic institutions and report back to Congress. The Department of State absolutely should not be putting our educators in a position of deciding what constitutes a danger to the national security of the United States. That is the Administration’s job.
“Specifically, the State Department has seemingly changed its interpretation of Section 501 of the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012. I believe that is not only a security threat; it goes against our current sanctions, and it’s unfair to our academic institutions.”
“I strongly oppose the actions by the State Department to shift responsibility onto independent universities or to reinterpret the law away from its obvious intent. To put it frankly, we’re still at war with terrorist organizations and we still need strong economic sanctions on Iran until they comply with nuclear nonproliferation agreements and stop their support of terrorism,” Vitter wrote in the letter to State Department’s inspector general Steve Linick.