January 8, 2014

Policy Memo: New Iran Sanctions Bill is a Vote for War Over Diplomacy

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NIAC strongly opposes legislation introduced by Senators Menendez, Schumer, and Kirk – S.1881, the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013 – that would implement new Iran sanctions in violation of the recently brokered Geneva accord. The Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013 (S.1881) would:

  • Violate the terms of the first phase nuclear agreement by imposing new sanctions on Iran. The bill would impose new sanctions but provide the President with the authority to delay implementation for 6 to 8 months. White House officials say that a delayed implementation would at a minimum violate the spirit of the deal. Iran would interpret this as a violation of the deal, according to Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.
  • Block a final deal by dictating insurmountable demands, including zero-enrichment. The bill stipulates that Iran must agree to dismantle its “nuclear infrastructure, including enrichment and reprocessing capabilities and facilities” as part of any final deal in order to prevent the imposition of future sanctions. Insisting on zero enrichment–which is not necessary, not attainable, and goes beyond any UN resolutions on Iran–would block a final deal.
  • Remove the President’s authority to lift sanctions. The sanctions in this legislation cannot be lifted. At best, the President would be authorized to issue a temporary one-year waiver that would need to be renewed on an annual basis. Worse, this waiver would only be available if the unrealistic and unnecessary requirements listed above were part of a final deal.
  • Weaken Presidential waiver authority for U.S. allies and risk unraveling multilateral sanctions. The sanctions in the bill would place new restrictions on the President’s authority to issue “cooperating country” waiver for countries reducing their Iranian oil imports. The bill would not allow the President to issue such a waiver unless countries reduced their oil imports by 30% in the first year and ended their imports in the second year. U.S. allies like China, South Korea, India, and Turkey are unlikely to be able to make such reductions.
  • Pledge U.S. military support for an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear program. This would be a dangerous signal that the U.S. condones and would support an unnecessary Israeli attack on Iran, increasingly the likelihood that the U.S. is dragged into a messy and counterproductive war that would backfire and increase the odds of a nuclear-armed Iran. Coming while negotiations are beginning to bear fruit, this kind of dangerous saber-rattling will play right into the hands of hardliners in Iran who believe the U.S. is bent on regime change.
  • Empower Iranian hardliners committed to blocking a nuclear deal and any progress on Iranian human rights. While hardliners were sidelined in the recent election, new sanctions would give them sufficient ammunition to undercut Rouhani’s diplomatic outreach and return to a position of influence in Iran’s political system. Either we deal with Rouhani’s flexibility now, or we deal with the inflexibility of the hardliners that dominated the Ahmadinejad-era.




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