Washington, DC – NIAC Policy Director Jamal Abdi released the following statement after Iran sanctions legislation (S. 269) was advanced out of the Senate Banking Committee:
“This legislation is a trojan horse aimed at killing the negotiations and starting a war with Iran. Many who voted for the bill may not have done so with this scenario in mind, but it is clear from those who are most aggressively driving the process–such as Senator Tom Cotton–that collapsing the talks is very much the intent. In the end, the consequences will be the same regardless of the intent.
“Thankfully, the sanctions bill is unlikely to receive a final vote for at least another two months–but that doesn’t mean damage hasn’t already being done.
“This bill is not a new threat to Iranian officials, it is a threat to our own negotiators. Many in Iran’s government would be delighted if Congress were to pass new sanctions that force the U.S. to violate the interim agreement. This would only help Iran blame the U.S. and unravel the sanctions without having to make a single nuclear concession. Some in Congress are so infatuated with the all stick, no carrot, approach that they are turning the sticks against our own negotiators. They are attacking the home team and undercutting U.S. negotiating leverage.
“It is hard to understand the point of this bill, if taken at face value. The entire world, including Tehran, knows that if Iran violates the deal or no agreement is reached, more sanctions are coming. But they also now know that Congress is going to make it extremely difficult for the U.S. to grant any sanctions relief if there is a deal. Today’s action casts further doubt on whether the U.S. can trade in our sanctions in the face of an obstructionist Congress, and only helps convince Iran not to make the tough concessions necessary for a deal because they may get nothing for it.
“Some undoubtedly agreed to advance the sanctions out of committee under the assumption that the bill will not receive a full vote until at least the end of March, in line with a letter signed this week by ten Democrats. But while these Democrats can pledge to not vote for a bill until then, they do not control the process. We can only hope that some reckless Senator who does not want to give the President more time does not try to force a sanctions vote before March. Furthermore, even if the Senate delays until March, this is not the deadline for a deal. Any sanctions before June 30 will violate the interim deal and invite significant consequences.
“We commend those who voted against advancing this bill: Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) deserve tremendous credit for standing with the President, American negotiators, and the international community in support of diplomacy instead of another war of choice.”
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