Washington, DC – NIAC Policy Director Jamal Abdi released the following statement regarding the Senate’s passage of new Iran sanctions as part of the Defense Authorization:
This is not the total embargo that hardliners were pushing, but is another incremental step towards the full exhaustion of sanctions and to a military endgame.
If negotiations do proceed, and a deal is to be had, we will arrive at a moment when the Administration will have to stand up to Congress in order to use the sanctions as leverage. This means easing U.S. sanctions in order to secure enhanced inspections and safeguards on Iran’s nuclear program. This is the path to a peaceful resolution of the nuclear standoff.
With every new sanctions bill that Congress passes, the President’s flexibility is marginalized and doubts solidify about whether sanctions can ever be leveraged for a diplomatic deal. This is what we saw happen with Iraq in the 1990s. Unbending sanctions do not buttress negotiations, they make diplomacy impossible and war inevitable.
Congress also failed to address the humanitarian consequences that these sanctions are having on ordinary Iranians. Iranians have now died as a direct result of these sanctions. This is not surprising given that the top sponsor, Senator Mark Kirk, has argued that the sanctions should hurt ordinary people in Iran and it is okay to take food out of their mouths in order to hurt the regime. Kirk’s sanctions undermine the people of Iran and help undercut their aspirations for democracy and human rights.
The measure builds on existing sanctions obstructing medicine and humanitarian goods for ordinary Iranians and does not include a real fix for this growing problem. At the same time, it requires the President to report on who is diverting humanitarian goods from ordinary Iranians. Any Iranian officials who are responsible for such diversions should be targeted, but an honest accounting of the humanitarian problem will also name these sanctions as a major culprit.
These sanctions will now be debated in conference as the House and Senate reconcile their two versions of the Defense Authorization. NIAC calls on negotiators to eliminate the broad sanctions included in this package, to include a real fix to ensure medicine and other supposedly exempt items are not blocked by sanctions, and to give the President flexibility to leverage the existing sanctions as part of diplomacy that must be restarted immediately.