Allies, Lawmakers and Officials Warn Against New Iran Sanctions

Key allies, policymakers and members of Congress have recently warned about the impact that new Iran sanctions legislation would have on efforts to reach a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran.  

Europe/NATO Allies:

David Cameron – UK Prime Minister: 

“It’s the opinion of the United Kingdom that further sanctions or further threat of sanctions at this point won’t actually help to bring the talks to a successful conclusion, and they could fracture the international unity that there’s been which has been so valuable in presenting a united front to Iran.”

Laurent Fabius, Phillip Hammond, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and Federica Mogherini – The foreign ministers of France, Britain, Germany and the high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy, respectively: 

Introducing new hurdles at this critical stage of the negotiations, including through additional nuclear-related sanctions legislation on Iran, would jeopardize our efforts at a critical juncture. While many Iranians know how much they stand to gain by overcoming isolation and engaging with the world, there are also those in Tehran who oppose any nuclear deal. We should not give them new arguments.  New sanctions at this moment might also fracture the international coalition that has made sanctions so effective so far. Rather than strengthening our negotiating position, new sanctions legislation at this point would set us back.”

Israeli Intelligence:

Mossad chairman Tamir Pardo:

In a briefing for a Congressional delegation, Pardo “used the term ‘hand grenade’ to describe the effect new sanctions would have on the nuclear negotiations with Iran.”

Former Officials:

Hillary Clinton – former U.S. Secretary of State: 

“If we’re the reason — through our Congress — that in effect gives Iran and others the excuse not to continue the negotiations, that would be, in my view, a very serious strategic error.”

“Why do we want to be the catalyst for the collapse of negotiations until we really know whether there’s something we can get out of them that will make the world safer [and] avoid an arms race in the Middle East?”

Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft – Former U.S. National Security Adviser: 

“I think two things are likely to happen if we increase the sanctions. They will break the talks. And a lot of the people who have now joined us in the sanctions would be in danger of leaving because most of the people who joined us in sanctions on Iran didn’t do it to destroy Iran. They did it to help get a nuclear solution.”

Zbigniew Brzezinski – Former U.S. National Security Adviser:

“In addition to what he (Lt. Gen Scowcroft) said I think the breaking off of the negotiations or the collapse of the negotiations would arrest and reverse the painful and difficult process of increasing moderation within Iranian political life.”

“Iran is beginning to evolve into what it traditionally has been, a very civilized, important historical country. But we have to be very careful not to have this dramatically and suddenly reversed.”

Administration:

President Barack Obama:

“New sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails — alienating America from its allies; and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again. It doesn’t make sense. That is why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress. The American people expect us to only go to war as a last resort, and I intend to stay true to that wisdom.”

Antony Blinken – Deputy Secretary of State: 

“New sanctions, at this time, are unnecessary and, far from enhancing the prospects for successful negotiations, risk fatally undermining our diplomacy and unraveling the sanctions regime so many in this body have worked so hard to establish.”

Samantha Power – U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations:

“Sanctions did not stop the advance of Iran’s nuclear program. Negotiations have done that, and it is in our interest not to deny ourselves the chance to achieve a long-term, comprehensive solution that would deny Iran a nuclear weapon.”

David Cohen – Under Secretary of Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence:

“We believe that new sanctions are not needed at this time. To the contrary, new sanctions at this time, even with a delayed trigger, are more likely to undermine, rather than enhance, the chances of achieving a comprehensive agreement.” 

Legislators Against New Sanctions:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY):

“New sanctions in the middle of negotiations is a huge mistake and may well break up the sanctions coalition, may well drive Iran away from the table. I have been one who wants sanctions because I don’t want war, frankly.”

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ):

“They (the Iranians) are at the table and so I’m confused by the notion that some would want to impose additional sanctions while negotiations are going on recognizing and stating that the purpose of sanctions is to bring people to the negotiating table.”

“I am sensitive to the administration’s concern that Congress move ahead now with additional sanctions, even triggered, that might upset the negotiations and fracture the coalition, the effective coalition that we have.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA): 

“I have a concern that reaches across party lines that some colleagues are pushing to enact new sanctions while our negotiators are still at the table. I don’t believe that strengthens us. It doesn’t strengthen our position at all. And these negotiations are going on right now.  In fact, I think if we enacted that legislation, we would jeopardize a chance, a once in a lifetime perhaps chance of having a far-reaching, final comprehensive agreement, which we know is going to be hard.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT):

“The U.S. and our partners have been making significant progress, and it would be deeply harmful for Congress to impose new sanctions now and risk giving the Iranians an excuse to walk away from the table.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA):

“I strongly support the president’s call to Congress to refrain from imposing additional sanctions on Iran. New sanctions now would violate the interim agreement, collapse the negotiations and take us out of lockstep with the international community.”

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA):

“The problem is that it (new Iran sanctions) could seriously undermine the delicate diplomacy that is at work.”

… 

“We cannot have it (the negotiations) fail because Congress wants to flex its muscle unnecessarily, when these negotiations should rise and fall on what is happening in those negotiations, recognizing the strength that that diplomatic initiative of P5 +1 brings to the table.”

Rep. David Price (D-NC):

“Imposing new or less flexible economic sanctions – which has been proposed by a number of my congressional colleagues, including Senators Kirk and Menendez – could do great damage to our prospects for a nuclear agreement with Iran. New punitive action could strengthen Iranian hard-liners and make their withdrawal from the negotiations more likely. Acting unilaterally could also undermine the stability of our international alliance, and thereby actually weaken the existing international sanctions regime.”

S.1881 Cosponsors Reconsidering New Sanctions:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC): 

“Do you agree with me that Congress may actually make things worse if we pass sanctions, but we should have a say about the final outcome through a 123 nuclear review process under the Atomic Energy Act?”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY):

“Sanctions have worked and is what got Iran to the negotiating table. The best solution is a strong diplomatic deal. The question is whether passing new sanctions now would help us get there.  The President strongly believes it would gravely harm negotiations, and therefore, I am willing to give him more time before supporting this bill.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY):

“There’s overwhelming support to toughen up the sanctions. The question is when. At times in the past the president asked for a little time, until March. That’s something people are looking at.”

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD):

“The administration has a point. I think we should listen to what they have to say.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT):

“I’m considering very seriously the very cogent points that he’s (President Obama) made in favor of delaying any congressional action. I’m talking to colleagues on both sides of the aisle. And I think they are thinking, and rethinking, their positions in light of the points that the president and his team are making to us.” 

About Author

Ryan CostelloRyan CostelloRyan Costello joined NIAC in April 2013 as a Policy Fellow and now serves as Policy Director. In this role, Ryan monitors legislation, conducts research and writing, and coordinates advocacy efforts. Ryan previously served as a Program Associate at the Connect U.S. Fund, where he focused on nuclear non-proliferation policy.
Connect with Me: