Members of Brown Students for Israel met with office representatives of two members of Congress and hand-delivered to them about 250 student letters in support of the proposed Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act of 2009 on Wednesday.
The act would authorize the president to impose strict sanctions — including cutting off Iranian imports of gasoline — if Iran does not comply with American requests to negotiate on their nuclear programs.
BSI initiated the campaign with a view toward "capitalizing on the moment when attention is paid to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's address to the United Nations General Assembly" on Wednesday, said Drew Harris '11, president of BSI.
The group also collaborated with student activists from Harvard, Brandeis University, Tufts University and Boston University for a coordinated petition effort on the same day.
BSI prepared pre-written letters that were signed by students on campus. The letters were customized for Rep. Patrick Kennedy, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Sen. Jack Reed and Rep. Jim Langevin — all Rhode Island Democrats — Harris said. Whitehouse is a co-sponsor of the Senate bill and Langevin and Kennedy are co-sponsors of the House bill.
Student groups from the other schools carried out the campaign with Massachusetts congressmen.
In addition to hand-delivering the letters to the offices, the students attended meetings with Tony Simon, deputy state director for Whitehouse and Nancy Langrall, policy director for Reed, discussing the "urgency of the moment" in relation to the pending legislation and the prospects of a "successful economic sanction program" on Iran, said Harry Reis '11, political affairs coordinator of BSI.
The group also discussed "illiberal and undemocratic practices in the regime of Iran" and emphasized that "sanctions would only target the energy sector," Harris said.
For example, the sanctions would affect companies offering insurance for oil shipping, therefore having a "direct impact on the government" but not the people of Iran, he added.
Another important objective of the campaign was to gain support from Reed. In a meeting with BSI in Washington, D.C., last May, Reis said, the senator "showed great concern" about the subject.
"Our efforts on campus to collect letters from the Ratty and the Main Green were to demonstrate to our legislators the degree to which the Iranian nuclear crisis is of great and primary concerns to Brown students," Reis said.
BSI is planning an academic panel and other activities to promote more discussion and awareness of the Iran conflict on campus, Harris said.