NIAC Congratulates Trump for Firing Bolton

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, September 10, 2019
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | mmostatabi@niacouncil.org

Washington, DC – Just now, reports broke that President Donald Trump dismissed John Bolton from his role as National Security Advisor.

In response, NIAC President Jamal Abdi released the following statement:

“We congratulate President Donald Trump on what may become the best decision of his Presidency. This single move dramatically reduces the chances of a new, catastrophic war in the Middle East. We have long said that the key first step in resolving the crisis with Iran was for Trump to fire Bolton. So long as Bolton was in the administration, he would always be the fox in the henhouse working to sabotage diplomacy.

“John Bolton should have never been in the White House to begin with and nearly took this country into the disastrous war with Iran that he has long dreamed of. Bolton came into Trump’s administration with a long agenda on Iran to kill the nuclear deal, start a disastrous war, and empower radical undemocratic groups like the MEK. Now the work can finally begin to put out the fires that Bolton started.

“The timing of this move is fortuitous given recent French efforts to facilitate dialogue between the U.S. and Iran. Bolton was a major obstacle to any resumption of diplomacy and, now that he has been dismissed, the Trump Administration should take proactive steps to enable dialogue and a diplomatic resolution with Iran. As with Bolton’s time in office, the time has come to dispense with the ‘maximum pressure’ campaign and halt necessary sanctions to enable talks to move forward.

“If Trump prefers to be a dealmaker rather than a war-starter, his Administration and National Security Advisor must reflect this. We hope the White House will find someone to succeed Bolton who aims to resolve challenges through diplomacy rather than endless wars.”

NIAC Statement on Iran’s Intent to Reduce Compliance with Nuclear Deal

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, September 4, 2019 
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | mmostatabi@niacouncil.org

WASHINGTON DC – Today, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned that Iran would reduce compliance with the Iran nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), this Friday. This is the third time Iran has taken such steps since the Trump Administration abrogated the agreement last year. The latest declaration comes ahead of the deadline set by Iran for Europe to uphold sanctions lifting obligations in exchange for Iran’s continued compliance with the nuclear accord. 

Simultaneously, French President Emmanuel Macron is leading an effort to offer Iran a bailout package in exchange for returning to full compliance with the deal. The proposal includes a $15 billion credit line to offset oil revenue lost under U.S. sanctions, but its payout requires a commitment from the U.S. not to block the funds.

In response to these latest developments, NIAC President Jamal Abdi issued the following statement: 

“Iran’s announcement is a predictable consequence of the Trump administration seemingly closing off every opportunity to resolve the Iran standoff diplomatically. A U.S. failure to pivot from maximum pressure to the diplomatic opportunities initiated by France and other American allies ensures a continued cycle of escalation that could quickly spin out of control.

“Iran’s decision to stop abiding by further JCPOA restrictions risks playing into the escalation trap set by John Bolton and other diplomatic spoilers. While France and other mediators have sought to mitigate U.S.-Iran tensions and safeguard the JCPOA, Bolton and other administration hawks are furiously attempting to fuel the flames of hostility.

“Importantly, Iran’s actions on the JCPOA are reversible and it has indicated its readiness to return to full compliance with the deal if parties to the accord provide Iran with sanctions relief. The current French proposal to establish a $15 billion credit line for Iran stands to achieve this, but only if President Trump allows it to materialize. 

“The ball is in the President’s court. He has the option to de-escalate the dangerous tensions with Iran and move the two countries off the path to war. But only if he shifts away from counterproductive “maximum pressure” and towards practical actions that build the confidence necessary for successful diplomacy.”

At NIAC Congressional Panel, Experts Warn Trump is Taking Iran Diplomacy Off the Table

“Beyond just violating the deal and unilaterally abandoning it, I think what the Trump administration is trying to do is make it impossible or next to impossible for a future Democratic administration to re-enter [the Iran nuclear deal],” said Ned Price, a former CIA and White House official now with National Security Action who was speaking on Iran policy on Wednesday. The Trump administration’s designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) is the “clearest example” yet, he said, of the White House seeking to tie the hands of a successor administration.

Price was speaking at a briefing hosted by the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) on Capitol Hill addressing the one-year anniversary of President Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The panelists, which also included Jamal Abdi, President of NIAC; Suzanne DiMaggio, Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; and Asieh Namdar, anchor and journalist for CGTN, argued that the next administration must return the U.S. to its JCPOA commitments.

On what the Trump administration is hoping to achieve, “it really depends on who you talk to in the administration and on what day,” DiMaggio said. “If the goal of U.S. policy is to get the Iranians back to the negotiating table, then the policy is a failure.” Similarly, if the goal is “the fulfillment of Secretary Pompeo’s 12 goals,” DiMaggio warned, “the Iranians read the 12 goals as regime change.” Rather than send signals that the U.S. is pursuing “flatout economic warfare” that could lead to the use of military force, DiMaggio advocated for more engagement. She warned that as the maximum pressure campaign goes on, “with each pressure point, we are making it impossible for the Iranians to even consider to come back to the table.”

Price added similar warnings, noting that “the fatal flaw in the administration’s policy is that coercive sanctions cannot have the intended effect when the ultimate goal is regime change in everything but name.” In contrast to the Obama administration, which had the backing of the international community in first enforcing sanctions and then negotiating a final nuclear agreement, he outlined how the Trump administration has pursued a unilateral approach. When asked how much of Trump’s latest policies since leaving the JCPOA, including designating the IRGC as a FTO and the Muslim Ban, can be undone, Price was optimistic. “I think if Donald Trump has taught us one thing, it is that you can do a lot, especially in the realm of foreign policy, as long as you explain yourself.”

Abdi, meanwhile, warned that Trump’s policies are undermining the constituency inside of Iran for negotiations. “I think what we are seeing inside of Iran is, at least among the political class, a real consolidation around a more hardline position,” Abdi said. He said the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign is intended to push Iran to leave the JCPOA. In such a case, Iran may lose the international community’s support and the moral high ground.

Noting that National Security Advisor John Bolton has been a long-time proponent of military force against Iran, Abdi warned “If Iran can be goaded to leave the nuclear deal, then I think you will see some of the things that John Bolton had been advocating for potentially to come to fruition.” The Trump administration’s latest escalations are alarming because they have begun to “institutionalize that diplomacy with Iran is off the table.” Abdi argued that the U.S. must uphold its international commitments by returning to compliance with the nuclear deal. “When Pompeo talks about Iran behaving as a normal country, well, the United States is not operating as a normal country, and typically the United States derived its power from the international order and the notion that diplomacy works.” The Trump administration’s current strategy is such a departure from those norms, he said, that “regime change” may have already occurred in the U.S.

The panelists unanimously agreed that the current U.S. strategy toward Iran is not only self defeating but dangerous, including by signaling to other nations that the U.S. is unreliable. Moreover, while Abdi emphasized that Iranians clearly recognize that their government is behind a lot of the suffering inside Iran, he warned that the U.S. has given “the Islamic Republic a pretty compelling narrative for how it is the U.S. to blame for economic challenges in Iran.”

Returning to the negotiating table with Iran would help restore faith in U.S. leadership, but with the current administration, the future remains uncertain, and there may eventually not be a table to return to. Abdi warned that there is work to be done to ensure that “regime change” in the United States is not permanent, “and that the United States returns to being a responsible actor that the U.S. derives so much influence and power from for so many years.”

A New Chapter for NIAC

Today is my first day as President of the National Iranian American Council. I could not be more proud to take the helm of this organization that my friend and mentor Trita founded and developed into a powerhouse with influence throughout Washington, a dynamic staff in D.C. and California, and tens of thousands of members and supporters across the country. But at this critical juncture, we have a lot of work ahead of us to fight for the priorities of the Iranian-American community.

I joined NIAC’s team in 2009 as Policy Director, became the founding Executive Director of NIAC Action to ensure our voices were heard at the ballot box, and most recently served as NIAC’s Vice President. Over that time, we have been through it all – from the hopes of the 2009 Iranian elections to human rights crackdowns and crippling sanctions. From a historic diplomatic opening and the promise of building bridges between Americans and Iranians, to a ban that divides us from our families.

Through the highs and the lows, NIAC’s mission has been consistent: to build power for Iranian Americans and our allies so that we shape our own political destiny. That means engaging our community in civic life, providing the tools and information to influence our government and elected officials, and building a platform for our community to find and speak with a powerful, unified voice.

We are in a moment now when our voice is needed more than ever before. Our community’s rights – the rights that are supposed to be a fabric of America and which were fundamental to the very existence of Iranian Americans – are in question. The country of our heritage, meanwhile, is in the crosshairs of newly empowered interests who see the years since the invasion of Iraq as a mere intermission delaying their second act in Iran. But the biggest threat to our community is giving in to those who tell us we do not have power to decide what happens next. 

We are not historians, we are activists. We are not bound to a fate decided as part of some opaque and unknown process, we are active participants in a democracy that is being tested. If we are convinced we lack agency over our political destiny, we resort to apathy and conspiracy theories. We accede to the forces of despotism and, instead of building power by working together, we turn on each other to the delight of outside influences who want to keep us disorganized and weak.

At NIAC, we know the rules of the political game and how to win. We know that influence is not only good ideas and access, it is about building power through organizing our community so that, instead of a formless cacophony of disparate voices turned against themselves, we form a powerful, unified voice that resonates in the halls of government.

We have much work to do on our community’s journey to building the political power we are capable of. This transition is a critical moment in that journey – the passage of any organization from its founder to their successor is when a startup becomes an institution. And while building an institution in the midst of what feels like a perilous moment in America’s political history may feel like a tall order, I relish the opportunity. In fact, I think this is precisely the challenge we as a country and we as a community must face head-on in order to meet our potential.

NIAC’s strength and influence comes from the community we serve. My top priority is to build our organization through our members. Over the weeks and months ahead, we will be rolling out new initiatives to deepen our connections with our members – and the level of input you have in shaping our organization – and to expand our membership and build our community.

In Farid Ud-din Attar’s Conference of the Birds, a flock embarks to find the leader who will save them. In the end, it is revealed that the “Simorgh” was not a single exalted leader but rather it was the flock itself, working together, who was the leader they had been seeking. It is a lesson that our community and its forebears have struggled to learn for generations. I am so proud to be a part of an organization that is committed to building this community that is unified, strategic and working together to build real power and leadership. I hope to help guide that process so that we realize our community’s true potential and become the masters of our own political destinies.

Much more to come.

Jamal Abdi
President

Congress Urges President to Ensure Sanctions Do Not Block Medicine for Iranians

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jamal Abdi
Phone: 202-386-6408
Email: jabdi@niacouncil.org
 
Jim Moran, Mark Warner, Gerald Connolly
 

Washington, DC – The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) commends Rep. James Moran (D-VA) and all twenty-one Members of Congress who sent a letter to President Obama today supporting necessary action to ensure medicine and humanitarian goods are not unintentionally blocked for the Iranian people. NIAC strongly supported the letter and has consistently worked to raise awareness regarding the impact of sanctions on the Iranian people.

“A large portion of the Iranian people are open to western ideas and the modern world. For the long run peace prospects, the U.S. is better served by balancing the need for sanctions with the humanitarian needs of the Iranian people,” said Rep. Moran. “The sanctions were not meant to block the Iranian people, who suffer under a repressive regime, access to food and medicine.  We ask President Obama to ensure that medicine and humanitarian related transactions are not affected by the ongoing sanctions.”

While humanitarian goods have been exempted from Iran sanctions by the White House and Congress, extensive financial sanctions have restricted banking channels necessary for humanitarian transactions, particularly pharmaceuticals solely produced in the United States and other Western countries.  This, in addition to extensive economic mismanagement by Iran’s government, has led to shortages of drugs that treat cancer, hemophilia and other life-threatening illnesses.

“Many Iranian Americans have family in Iran that are suffering as a direct result of sanctions and are hopeful that recent diplomatic progress will bring about change,” said NIAC Policy Director Jamal Abdi. “In the meantime, it is critical that Congress and the Administration work to ensure sanctions do not continue blocking medicine and humanitarian goods for the Iranian people.”

The preliminary nuclear agreement brokered by the P5+1 and Iran included an agreement to establish a financial channel to facilitate humanitarian trade; however, medicine shortages have continued in part due to extensive financial sanctions on Iran and the reported unwillingness of banks to facilitate legal, humanitarian transactions.

View the letter…

Signers:

Rep. James P. Moran (D-VA)
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)
Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN)
Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO)
Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI)
Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR)
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN)
Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA)
Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ)
Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ)
Rep. Michael M. Honda (D-CA)
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA)
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)
Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN)
Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA)
Rep. James P. McGovern (D-MA)
Rep. Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY)
Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX)
Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME)
Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-NY)
Rep. Janice D. Schakowsky (D-IL)

###

The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the interests of the Iranian-American community. We accomplish our mission by supplying the resources, knowledge and tools to enable greater civic participation by Iranian Americans and informed decision-making by policymakers.

Image via AP

NIAC Applauds UN Renewal of Iran Human Rights Rapporteur Mandate

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


Contact: Jamal Abdi
Phone: 202-386-6408
Email: jabdi@niacouncil.org

Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed

Washington, DC – National Iranian American Council (NIAC) issued the following statement regarding the UN’s 21-9 vote to renew the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Iran:

“NIAC welcomes this morning’s UN Human Rights Council vote to renew the mandate for the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed. Over the past few years, the Special Rapporteur’s reports have been critical to shining a light on human rights violations in Iran. The mandate renewal marks an important step in ensuring that Iran’s government is held accountable for rights violations and begins the process of respecting its citizens and human rights.

“NIAC reiterates its call for Iran’s government to permit the Special Rapporteur to visit the country and to respond honestly and faithfully to the Special Rapporteur’s numerous requests for information. Reports that the Special Rapporteur has been in contact and met with high ranking officials in Iran’s Judiciary, the branch of government responsible for the troubling execution rate in Iran, are a promising first step. Since the Special Rapporteur was given a mandate to investigate human rights abuses in Iran in March 2011, Iran’s government has refused to permit an in-country visit and has been non-responsive to many of the Special Rapporteur’s requests for information. NIAC hopes that this new outreach with Iranian officials will yield increased cooperation.

“NIAC has remained a strong and sustained supporter of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate and has worked to support it, beginning with NIAC’s advocacy for the reestablishment of the mandate in 2011. NIAC believes that multilateral monitoring and accountability mechanisms, such as that of the UN Secretary-General, the Special Rapporteur for Human Rights, and NGO work, are vital to ensuring that Iran’s government takes the steps required to respect its citizens’ rights.

“NIAC also strongly supports the recent diplomatic outreach with Iran by the United States and other countries that can yield benefits in the human rights situation, as dialogue encourages and supports Iran’s burgeoning civil society. NIAC has consistently supported broadening the dialogue to include human rights. We hope that President Rouhani lives up to the promise of his campaign to the Iranian people and that his government will work with the Special Rapporteur to ensure that necessary reforms are undertaken to ensure Iran upholds its human rights obligations.”

Policy Memo: Barriers to Lifting US Sanctions in a Final Deal with Iran

Introduction

The most commonly stated rationale behind U.S. sanctions has been to convince Iran’s government to enter negotiations and accept strict limits on its nuclear program in order to have sanctions lifted. But the sanctions now threaten negotiations by withholding from the President the ability to lift them should a deal with Iran be reached. Below, NIAC details the existing authorizations for the President to waive and terminate the sanctions and discusses the problems posed by these limited authorities.

For the past decade, the United States has imposed a wide array of sanctions on Iran motivated primarily by the nuclear issue. With the implementation of the Joint Plan of Action by Iran and the P5+1, negotiations are now underway towards a comprehensive nuclear agreement in which Iran resolves concerns about its nuclear program in exchange for lifting of all ‘nuclear-related’ sanctions.

However, lifting the U.S. sanctions will be no small task. While the President retains the authority to issue time-limited waivers as to most of the sanctions, in most cases terminating the sanctions will require an affirmative act of Congress. This presents problems that will require a solution should the negotiations lead to a nuclear deal.

Below, we detail the energy, financial, and trade-related U.S. sanctions in place and the statutory authorizations for waiver and termination that currently exist. The limited nature of these authorizations – particularly for lifting the sanctions – poses a significant obstacle to securing a strong nuclear deal with Iran. If the White House relies solely on offering temporary waivers that must be continually renewed and thus subject to domestic political considerations, a final deal is unlikely to inspire the confidence necessary for Iran to see meaningful sanctions relief. In such case, Iran is likely to reciprocate the U.S.’s limited and reversible sanctions relief with nuclear concessions that are similarly limited and reversible. This will not be a recipe for a successful deal.

To secure a truly comprehensive nuclear deal, it is critical that Congress and the administration reevaluate the current authorizations for sanctions relief and ensure that the necessary authorities exist to not just waive sanctions on a time-limited basis, but to terminate them completely. Doing so will allow U.S. negotiators to fully leverage sanctions relief at the negotiating table to procure significant and lasting nuclear concessions from Iran, and will make certain that the President has the tools needed to follow through on any agreement reached.

U.S. Sanctions

U.S. sanctions have targeted Iran’s energy and financial sectors and have exacted a de facto U.S. trade ban with Iran. Most of these sanctions will need to be lifted as part of a final deal that places limits and transparency measures over Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Energy-Related Sanctions

Energy-related sanctions have limited Iran’s ability to develop and export its energy resources, thereby cutting Iran off from a significant source of revenue. Energy sanctions have included virtual bans on:

  • U.S. and foreign investment in Iran’s energy sector (ISA Sec. 5(a)(1))
  • The purchase of crude oil and petrochemical products from Iran (E.O. 13622 and NDAA 2012 Sec. 1245(d)(4)(C))
  • The provision of shipping services for the sale of crude oil from Iran (ISA Sec. 5(a)(7))
  • The sale of goods and services that aid Iran’s energy sector (ISA Sec. 5(a)(5))
  • The sale of refined petroleum products to Iran (i.e., gasoline) (ISA Sec. 5(a)(3))
  • The sale of goods and services that aid Iran’s domestic production of refined petroleum products (ISA Sec. 5(a)(2))
  • The provision of insurance for Iran’s oil entities (e.g., NIOC) (ITRA Sec. 212)

 

Termination Authorities: For the above Iran Sanctions Act (ISA)-related sanctions, the President can lift sanctions only if he makes the following certifications to Congress:

  1. Iran has ceased efforts to acquire WMD and ballistic missile technologies
  2. Iran has been removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism
  3. Iran no longer poses a significant threat to U.S. national security or U.S. allies

It is highly improbable a final nuclear deal will enable the President to make these certifications. Nuclear negotiations are unlikely to address non-nuclear WMD; Iran’s ballistic missile program; Iran’s support for U.S.-designated terror groups like Hezbollah; or other issues unrelated to Iran’s nuclear program.

Waiver Authorities: The President can issue time-limited waivers of the above ISA-related sanctions under ISA Section 4(c) upon certification to Congress that such waiver is “vital to the national security interests of the United States.” Under this statutory provision, sanctions can be waived for a period of up to 180 days, with opportunities for successive renewal. (Non-ISA energy-related sanctions have similar provisions for presidential waiver.)

Financial Sanctions

U.S. sanctions have taken direct aim at Iran’s ability to access the international financial system. These sanctions are designed to limit Iran’s ability to either receive or access payments made from its sale of crude oil abroad, as well as curb Iran’s access to foreign exchange. Financial sanctions targeting Iran have:

  • Declared Iran a ‘jurisdiction of primary money laundering concern’ (NDAA 2012 Sec. 1245(b))
  • Blocked purchase of the sovereign debt of Iran and related bonds (ITRA Sec. 213)
  • Erected a ban on trade and accounts denominated in the Iranian rial (E.O 13645)
  • Prohibited the sale, supply, or transfer of precious metals (i.e., gold) to Iran (IFCA Sec. 1245, E.O. 13645)
  • Imposed sanctions on any foreign financial institution that:
    • Processes ‘significant’ financial transactions with designated Iranian entities (CISADA Sec. 104)
    • Processes payments to Iran’s Central Bank and other designated Iranian financial institutions (NDAA Sec. 1245)

 

Termination Authorities: With few exceptions, the President has no termination authority for financial sanctions. In some cases (as in the ITRA-related sanctions), the President may terminate the sanctions only by making certifications to Congress on subjects beyond the nuclear issue.

Waiver Authorities: The President retains discretion to temporarily waive several of the financial sanctions on a time-limited basis that would require subsequent renewal. For instance:

  • The imposition of sanctions on any foreign financial institution that processes payments to Iran’s Central Bank and other designated Iranian entities can be waived by the President for a period up to 120 days with the option for successive renewal, upon a determination that such waiver is “in the national security interest of the United States.”
  • With regard to purchasing, or facilitating the issuance of, the sovereign debt of Iran, the President can waive sanctions for a period up to 180 days upon certification that such waiver is “vital to the national security interests of the United States,” with the opportunity for successive periods of renewal.

The President does have the power to amend or revoke financial sanctions imposed through Executive Order and not tied to a legislative mandate, such as the prohibition on trade in the rial and the keeping of accounts denominated in the rial.

Trade-Related Sanctions

Since 1995, the United States has imposed a comprehensive ban on domestic trade with Iran. This ban has taken the form of several successive orders, as well as codification in Section 103 of the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions and Divestment Act. While the trade ban applies to U.S. persons and entities – and not non-U.S. persons in the way the energy and financial sanctions do – it may be in both the U.S. and Iran’s interest to lift these sanctions, especially if energy and financial sanctions are lifted on non-U.S. persons and firms.

Termination Authorities: U.S. sanctions on trade with Iran are located in a series of executive orders, which the President has the discretion to amend or revoke. However, the trade-related sanctions were codified into law in 2010. These sanctions are subject to a sunset provision (Sec. 401(a)), where the ban on trade terminates 30 days after presidential certification that Iran:

  • “Has ceased providing support for acts of international terrorism and no longer satisfies the requirements for designation as a state sponsor of terrorism” and
  • “Has ceased the pursuit, acquisition, and development of [WMD] and ballistic missiles and ballistic missile launch technology”

Because a final comprehensive nuclear deal is unlikely to address the topics of terrorism or Iran’s ballistic missile program, presidential certification triggering CISADA’s sunset provision (which is a de facto termination provision) is highly improbable. The President is thus limited to time-limited waiver of the trade ban.

Waiver Authorities: Under Section 401(b) of CISADA, the President is authorized to waive the imposition of sanctions upon a determination that such waiver is “in the national interest of the United States.” Unlike the waiver provisions for energy and financial sanctions, Sec. 401(b) does not have a time-limit for waiver and waiver can thus be indefinite.

Under Section 103(d) of CISADA, the President also has the authority to “prescribe regulations . . . which may include regulatory exceptions” to the trade-related sanctions. Such exceptions would act so as to permit certain trade with Iran, enabling the President to both open certain channels of trade with Iran and use the promise of open trade as leverage during the ongoing negotiations with Iran. The sole restriction on the President’s discretion is for the “commercial importation of an Iranian-origin good” that was prohibited at the time of CISADA’s passage under the ITR, in which case the President would need to certify to Congress that the exception is “in the national security interest of the United States.”

Appendix: Major U.S. sanctions on Iran

         
  Iran Sanctions Act (ISA)
  Section Sanctioned Person/Activity Waiver Authority Termination Authority
  Sec. 5 (a)(1) U.S. and foreign investment in Iran’s energy sector President can waive for up to 6 months the sanctions in ISA Section 5(a) with respect to a national of a country if the President certifies to Congress at least 30 days before such waiver is to take effect that such waiver is vital to national security interests of U.S. (Sec. 4(c)(1)) – President can renew waiver for up to 6 months at a time if President determines that waiver is appropriate (Sec. 4(c)(2)) President can terminate sanctions if he determines and certifies to Congress that Iran (Sec. 8(a)): – Has ceased efforts to design, develop, etc. a nuclear explosive device or related materials; chemical or biological weapons; and ballistic missiles and related technology (Sec. 8(a)(1)) – Has been removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism (Sec. 8 (a)(2)) – Poses no significant threat to U.S. national security, interests, or allies (Sec. 8 (a)(3))
  Sec. 5 (a)(2) Provision of goods, services, etc., that aid Iran’s domestic production of refined petroleum products
  Sec. 5 (a)(3) Sale or provision of refined petroleum products to Iran
  Sec. 5 (a)(3) Provision of goods, services, etc., that aid Iran’s ability to import refined petroleum products, including: – Provision of insurance or reinsurance for provision of such goods, etc.;
  – Financing or brokering such sale or provision;
  – Providing shipping services to deliver refined petroleum products;
  – Bartering;
  – Purchasing, subscribing, or facilitating issuance of sovereign debt of Iran, including government bonds
  Sec. 5 (a)(4) Joint ventures with Iran for the development of petroleum resources outside of Iran
  Sec. 5 (a)(5) Provision of goods, services, etc., that aid Iran’s ability to develop petroleum resources located in Iran or Iran’s domestic production of refined petroleum products
  Sec. 5 (a)(6) Provision of goods, services, etc., that aid Iran’s domestic production of petrochemical products
  Sec. 5 (a)(7) Provision of shipping services used to transport crude oil from Iran to another country
  Sec. 5 (a)(8) Concealment of Iranian origin of crude oil or refined petroleum products transported on a vessel
  Sec. 5(b)(1) Export or transfer of any goods, services, technology, etc. to any person with knowledge that such would be transferred to Iran and would materially contribute to Iran’s ability to acquire WMD or destabilizing numbers of advanced conventional weapons The President can waive, on a case-by-case basis, sanctions imposed under section 5(b) for no longer than a year if the President determines and reports to the appropriate congressional committees that it is vital to the national security interests of the United States. (Sec. 9(c)(1)(B))  None
 
  Sec. 5 (b)(2) Joint ventures with Iran for mining, production, or transportation of uranium President can renew this waiver on a case-by-case basis for an additional one year period, not later than 30 days before the waiver expires. (Sec. 9 (c)(1)(C))  None
  Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 (CISADA)
  Section Sanctioned Person/Activity Waiver Authority Termination Authority
  Sec. 103 (b)(1) Imports of Iranian-origin goods and services President can waive the application of sanctions under Section 103(b), the requirement to impose sanctions with respect to a person under Section 105(a), the requirement to include a person on the list required by section 105(b), the application of the prohibition under section 106(a), etc., if the President determines that such waiver is in the national interest of the United States (Sec. 401(b)) *President can prescribe regulatory exceptions to the sanctions described in Section 103(b), though the commercial importation of Iranian-origin goods may require certification to Congress that such exception would be in national interest of the United States (Sec. 103(d)) Sanctions terminate upon President’s certification that:
  Sec. 103 (b)(2) Exports of U.S.-origin goods, services, and technology to Iran – Iran has ceased providing support for acts of international terrorism and no longer satisfies the requirements for designation as a state sponsor of terrorism
  Sec. 104 (c)(2) Foreign financial institutions that: – Facilitate Iran’s efforts to acquire or develop WMD or to provide support for organizations designated as FTOs Secretary of Treasury can waive application of prohibitions or conditions imposed with respect to foreign financial institution in Sec. 104(c) if: – Secretary determines such waiver is necessary to the national interest of the United States and submits to Congress a report describing reasons for determination (Sec. 104(f)) – Iran has ceased the pursuit, acquisition, and development of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and ballistic missiles and ballistic missile launch technology (Sec. 401(a))
  – Facilitate activities of person subject to financial sanctions under UN Res. 1737, 1747, 1803, or 1929  
  – Engage in money laundering to carry out above activities  
  – Facilitate efforts by Central Bank of Iran or any other Iranian financial institution to carry out above activities  
  – Facilitate significant transaction or provide significant financial services for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps or a financial institution whose property is blocked pursuant to IEEPA  
  Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 (cont.)
  Section Sanctioned Person/Activity Waiver Authority Termination Authority
  Sec. 105(b) Persons who are officials of Iran’s Government or persons acting on behalf of the Government that President determines are responsible for the commission of serious human rights abuses against citizens of Iran President can waive the application of sanctions under Section 103(b), the requirement to impose sanctions with respect to a person under Section 105(a), the requirement to include a person on the list required by section 105(b), the application of the prohibition under section 106(a), etc., if the President determines that such waiver is in the national interest of the United States (Sec. 401(b)) Sanctions imposed under Sec. 105 can terminate upon President’s certification that Iran has (Sec. 105(d)):
  – Released all political prisoners (Sec. 105(d)(1))
  – Ceased its practices of violence, unlawful detention, torture, and abuse of citizens of Iran while engaging in peaceful political activity (Sec. 105 (d)(2))
  – Conducted transparent investigation into killings, arrests, and abuse of peaceful political activists in aftermath of June 2009 elections and prosecuted individuals responsible for such killings, arrests, and abuse (Sec. 105 (d)(3))
  – Made public commitment to establishing an independent judiciary and respecting human rights recognized in UDHR (Sec. 105(d)(4))
  Sec. 106(a) Head of U.S. executive agency may not enter into a contract for the procurement of goods or services with a person that exports sensitive technology (i.e., hardware, software, etc., that President determines to be used specifically to restrict the flow of information in Iran or to disrupt, monitor, or restrict Iranians’ speech) to Iran President can waive the application of sanctions under Section 103(b), the requirement to impose sanctions with respect to a person under Section 105(a), the requirement to include a person on the list required by section 105(b), the application of the prohibition under section 106(a), etc, if the President determines that such waiver is in the national interest of the United States (Sec. 401(b)) Sanctions terminate upon President’s certification that:
  – Iran has ceased providing support for acts of international terrorism and no longer satisfies the requirements for designation as a state sponsor of terrorism
  – Iran has ceased the pursuit, acquisition, and development of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and ballistic missiles and ballistic missile launch technology (Sec. 401(a))
  National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA 2012)
  Section Sanctioned Person/Activity Waiver Authority Termination Authority
  Sec. 1245(b) Designated Iran’s financial sector a primary money laundering concern   None
  Sec. 1245 (d)(1) Foreign financial institution that conducts a significant financial transaction with the Central Bank of Iran or a designated Iranian financial institution President can waive the imposition of sanctions for up to 120 days if the President determines that such waiver is in the national security interest of the United States and submits to Congress a report justifying waiver and including cooperation President has received or expects to receive as result of waiver
  Sec. 1245 (d)(3) Foreign financial institution owned or controlled by a foreign country, if that financial institution conducts a significant financial transaction for the sale or purchase of petroleum products to or from Iran – Waiver is renewable for periods of up to 120 days *(Sec. 1245(d)(5)) Sanctions imposed shall not apply to a financial institution if the President determines and reports to Congress, not later than 90 days after the President makes the determination required and every 180 days thereafter, that the country with primary jurisdiction over the foreign financial institution has significantly reduced its volume of crude oil purchases from Iran (Sec. 1245 (d)(4)(D))
  Iran Threat Reduction and Syrian Human Rights Act of 2012 (ITRA)
  Section Sanctioned Person/Activity Waiver Authority Termination Authority
  Sec. 211(a) Provision of vessels or insurance or reinsurance for the transportation to or from Iran of goods that could aid Iran with respect to WMD proliferation or support for acts of international terrorism President can waive imposition of sanctions with respect to a person under Sec. 211 if President determines that such waiver is in the national security interests of the United States (Sec. 211(c) Sections 211, 212, 220, 221, and 501 terminate upon President’s certification that:
  Sec. 212(a) Provision of underwriting services or insurance or reinsurance for NIOC or NITC Waiver provisions of ISA Section 4(c) apply with respect to Sec. 212 (Sec. 212(d)(1)) – Iran has ceased providing support for acts of international terrorism and no longer satisfies the requirements for designation as a state sponsor of terrorism
  Sec. 220(b) Provision of specialized financial messaging services to the Central Bank of Iran or a designated Iranian financial institution *President not required impose sanctions under Sec. 220 – Iran has ceased the pursuit, acquisition, and development of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and ballistic missiles and ballistic missile launch technology (Sec. 605, referencing CISADA Sec. 401(a))
  Sec. 221 (a)(1) Senior officials of Iran’s Government involved in: President can waive imposition of restrictions on individuals listed under Sec. 221 if President determines waiver essential to U.S. national security interests (Sec. 221(e))  
  – Illicit nuclear activities or proliferation of WMD  
  – Support for international terrorism, or  
  – Serious human rights abuses against citizens of Iran  
  Iran Threat Reduction and Syrian Human Rights Act of 2012 (cont.)
  Section Sanctioned Person/Activity Waiver Authority Termination Authority
  Sec. 301(a) Foreign persons who are officials, agents, or affiliates of the IRGC President can waive imposition of sanctions under Sec. 301 if President determines waiver to be vital to U.S. national security interests (Sec. 301(e))  None
  Sec. 302(a) Foreign persons who: President can waive imposition of sanctions under Sec. 302 if President determines that person has ceased the activity for which sanctions would be imposed or determines waiver to be essential to U.S. national security interests (Sec. 302(d) and (e)) *President not required to identify foreign persons for sanctions under Sec. 302 if he notifies Congress that it would cause damage to U.S. national security interests President can terminate a sanction imposed on a foreign person pursuant to subsection (b) if the President determines that the person no longer engages in the activity for which the sanction was imposed and can assure that the person will not engage in any activity in section (a)(1) in the future (Sec. 302(c))
  – Provide financial, material, or technological support for, or goods and services in support of, the IRGC or any of its blocked agents
  – Engage in significant transaction with IRGC, etc.
  – Engage in significant transaction with person subject to UN financial sanctions or person acting on behalf of such person
  Sec. 501(a) Citizens of Iran that seek to enter the U.S. to study in preparation for a career in Iran’s energy sector or in nuclear science or nuclear engineering  None Sections 211, 212, 220, 221, and 501 terminate upon President’s certification that:
  – Iran has ceased providing support for acts of international terrorism and no longer satisfies the requirements for designation as a state sponsor of terrorism
  – Iran has ceased the pursuit, acquisition, and development of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and ballistic missiles and ballistic missile launch technology (Sec. 605, referencing CISADA Sec. 401(a))
  National Defense Authorization Act of 2013, Subtitle D (NDAA 2013)
  Section Sanctioned Person/Activity Waiver Authority Termination Authority
  Sec. 1244 (c)(2)(A) Persons part of the energy, shipping or shipbuilding sectors of Iran President can waive imposition of sanctions for period of up to 180 days if President determines such waiver is vital to U.S. national security and submits report to Congress (Sec. 1244(i))  
  Sec. 1244 (c)(2)(B) Persons operating a port in Iran  
  Sec. 1244 (c)(2)(C) Provision of significant financial, material, technological support to, or goods and services in support of, any activity of transaction on behalf of:  
  – Persons part of the energy, shipping, or shipbuilding sectors of Iran,  
  – Person operating a port in Iran, or  
  – Iranian persons included on list of SDNs and blocked persons  
  Sec. 1244 (d)(1)(A) Sells, supplies, or transfers to or from Iran of goods and services used in connection with energy, shipping, or shipbuilding sectors of Iran  
  Sec. 1245 (a)(1) Sells, supplies, or transfers to or from Iran of: President can waive imposition of sanctions for period of up to 180 days, with periods of successive waiver, if President determines such waiver is vital to the national security interest of the U.S. and submits report to Congress (Sec. 1245(g))  None
  – Precious metal  
  – Graphite, raw or semi-finished metals like aluminum, steel, coal, and software for integrating industrial processes (either for barter, swap, or any other transaction, or to be used in connection with the energy, shipping, or shipbuilding sectors of Iran, etc.)  
  Sec. 1246 (a)(1) Provision of underwriting services or insurance or reinsurance to or from any person with respect to the energy, shipping, or shipbuilding sectors of Iran for which sanctions are imposed, etc. President can waive imposition of sanctions for period of up to 180 days, with periods of successive waiver, if President determines such waiver is vital to the national security of the U.S. and submits report to Congress (Sec. 1246(e))  
  Sec. 1247 (a) Facilitation of a significant financial transaction on behalf of Iranian person included on list of SDNs and blocked persons President can waive imposition of sanctions for period of up to 180 days, with periods of successive waiver, if President determines such waiver is vital to the national security of the U.S. and submits report to Congress (Sec. 1247(f))  
  Sec. 1248 (b)(1) Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting and President of the IRIB Waiver under CISADA Sec. 401(b) applies to Sec. 1248 above (also President has discretionary authorities to impose sanctions under this section similar to CISADA Sec. 105(d)) (Sec. 1248(b)(3))

View memo as PDF

NIAC Commends EU High Representative Ashton for Landmark Iran Visit

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


Contact: Jamal Abdi
Phone: 202-386-6408
Email: jabdi@niacouncil.org

Jamal Abdi, the Policy Director of the National Iranian American Council, issued the following statement regarding EU High Representative Catherine Ashton’s landmark trip to Iran this weekend:

“Catherine Ashton’s trip to Iran is a welcome step towards resolving the tensions between Iran and the West through dialogue and diplomacy.  Institutionalized silence and pressure politics have only deepened distrust, which has played into the hands of hardliners, perpetuated the nuclear crisis and seen the human rights situation in Iran deteriorate.

“Lady Ashton deserves praise, particularly for her efforts to highlight the international community’s concerns regarding the human rights situation in Iran. Not only did Ashton raise concerns about human rights in Iran with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, she also met with several women’s rights activists at the Austrian Embassy in Tehran. While such visits do not in and of themselves provide systemic change to the human rights situation in Iran, they are necessary steps towards that goal. Indeed, carefully calibrated dialogue can put more pressure on human rights abusers than silence or empty condemnations.

“The Iranian people have created a critical opportunity for moderation of both Iran’s domestic and foreign policies.  Thus far, the international community and the Rouhani administration have focused primarily on the nuclear issue, and those efforts have yielded some success.  But progress in one area can build trust and open new opportunities for dialogue on other vital issues.  As negotiations proceed toward a final nuclear deal, other nations should follow the example of the EU and Lady Ashton by increasing contact and expanding the agenda of dialogue to include human rights.  Ultimately, no sustainable solution to the conflict can be found unless human rights are prominently included on the agenda.

###

The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the interests of the Iranian-American community. We accomplish our mission by supplying the resources, knowledge and tools to enable greater civic participation by Iranian Americans and informed decision-making by policymakers.

 

U.S. News: An All-Out Assault on Diplomacy

When a group of Senators introduced new sanctions legislation just weeks after the U.S. signed an interim deal with Iran explicitly committing not to pass new sanctions, it became clear that our diplomats’ greatest challenge may not be getting a final deal with Iran, but rather getting a final deal with Congress.

The effort to pass new sanctions is not a mere difference of opinion on what are the best diplomatic tactics. It is a full scale assault on the notion that we should be engaging in diplomacy in the first place. You can’t be for diplomacy and also for blowing up the talks.

Thankfully, once Senators started reading the sanctions bill and realizing its consequences, the effort gained no new supporters and has been put on ice. But instead of wasting weeks debating whether or not to violate the interim Iran deal with sanctions, Washington should have been focused on the real issue: how and when do we trade in the existing sanctions for a final nuclear deal?

The new sanctions effort was not just an attempt to renege on the deal, it was an attempt by sanctions hawks to renege on the stated rationale behind the sanctions — that sanctions were only intended as a form of diplomatic leverage to compel Iran to change its behavior in exchange for having the sanctions lifted. 

Meeting Iran’s change in behavior by piling on more sanctions would have sent the opposite message — the message that Iranian hardliners claim is the real American agenda: that the U.S. seeks only to keep Iran weak and will never relinquish the sanctions no matter what Iran does.

Instead of feeding into that narrative, we must do the opposite and make our offer of sanctions relief in exchange for Iranian nuclear concessions credible. This is where the real problem lies: while the president is empowered to conduct U.S. foreign policy, it is Congress who has legislated the sanctions into law and who holds the keys for lifting those sanctions. For most sanctions, the president has only modest authority to waive them on a temporary basis.

That Congress would waste months considering new sanctions undermines the credibility of U.S. negotiators going into the talks — if the U.S. would consider torpedoing an interim deal that merely called for Congress to not pass new sanctions, how will Congress ever deliver on the terms of a final agreement that would require lifting sanctions?

That is why Congress and the president must work together to ensure our diplomats have full credibility to offer real sanctions relief to get a strong nuclear deal. Congress should provide the president with this authority. If the president does not have this authority, and relies solely on executive orders and temporary waivers, the Iranians are unlikely to to trade in anything beyond temporary, reversible concessions. Any nuclear deal will be weak and fragile, and will likely go the way of the Kyoto Protocol, the Mexico City Policy or any other initiatives led solely by the executive that quickly evaporated once the sitting president was no longer holding the pen.

Originally published in U.S. News.

 

 

 

Sanctions Cut Off Online Courses for Iranians


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Jamal Abdi

Phone: 202-386-6408

Email: jabdi@niacouncil.org

Washington, DC – NIAC calls on the Treasury and State Department to take immediate action to address restrictions that have cut off online courses for Iranians. The online education provider Coursera has announced that it will no longer provide access to individuals in Iran, Sudan, and Cuba due to U.S. sanctions. Under existing federal authorities, a license should be issued to Coursera to allow their continued provision of educational services in embargoed countries. NIAC urges Coursera to work with Treasury and State to facilitate the provision of this license.

“Denying Iranians the right to an education undermines American interests and values, and violates the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” said NIAC Policy Director Jamal Abdi. “The Iranian government has systematically denied education to students based on their political and religious beliefs. The U.S. should not be in the business of denying education to students simply because they are Iranian.”

NIAC has urged that scientific and academic exchanges are critical to improving U.S.-Iran relations and empowering moderate elements in Iran. 

Coursera is but one example of how broad U.S. sanctions have impacted Iranian students in recent years. Similar non-profit online education services MITx and EDx do not offer Iranians certificates of completion. 

In 2010, Educational Testing Service suspended the TOEFL English-language proficiency test for Iranians, which is required for studying in the US and UK, in 2010. Thankfully, that issue was resolved through grassroots pressure and the intervention of Treasury and State. 

Many Iranian students studying in the U.S. report difficulties in paying tuition and basic living expenses due to sanctions closing off financial channels. In 2012 in Minnesota, TCF Bank unilaterally terminated at least 29 Iranian students’ bank accounts. The bank is now being investigated for discrimination by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, but such difficulties continue to plague Iranian students in the U.S.

Under Iran sanctions legislation passed by Congress in 2012, prospective Iranian students are now denied from studying in the U.S. in energy or nuclear-related fields. A directive was subsequently sent to U.S. universities operating abroad instructing them to deny undergraduate students from taking math, science, or engineering courses beyond the introductory level and requiring a U.S. government license to admit Iranian graduate students. Under sanctions pressure, scientific journals began rejecting Iranian authors last year. Many prospective students in Iran say they are being denied U.S. student visas due to security restrictions and because they are automatically disqualified due having fulfilled their mandatory military service in Iran.

“The patchwork of Iran sanctions is so broad and convoluted that the limited carve outs put in place are never able to prevent collateral damage,” said Abdi. “The end result is that we end up punishing ordinary people and jeopardizing our most important relationships with the next generation of Iranians who will decide Iran’s future.” 

Between 1974 and 1983, more students came to study in the U.S. from Iran than any other country, with approximately 50,000 Iranian students studying in the U.S. That number has dropped significantly. Recognizing the significant benefit of hosting Iranian students and building bonds with the people of Iran, the State Department has worked to expand Iranian student visas and nearly 9,000 Iranian students now study in the U.S.—more than at any other time in the past two and half decades. Unfortunately, sanctions continue to undermine these efforts.

###

The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the interests of the Iranian-American community. We accomplish our mission by supplying the resources, knowledge and tools to enable greater civic participation by Iranian Americans and informed decision-making by policymakers.

 

 

 

 

 

NIAC Applauds Investigation of Bank Discrimination Against Iranian Students

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Jamal Abdi

Phone: 202-386-6408

Email: jabdi@niacouncil.org
 
Washington DC – NIAC applauds the decision by Minnesota Department of Human Rights’ (MDHR) to investigate charges of alleged discrimination by TCF Bank against Iranian students whose university-linked bank accounts were terminated. NIAC has advocated publicly in support of the students and sent a letter to TCF Bank last year calling on the bank to reverse its decision and to ensure that its policies do not discriminate against Iranians.  
 
“The sanctions against Iran have been so broad and sweeping that some companies have relied on profiling and discrimination to enforce them,” said Jamal Abdi, NIAC’s Policy Director. “The costs for violating sanctions are well known to these companies, but this investigation sends an important message that there is also a cost for violating civil rights in the name of sanctions enforcement.”
 
Samira Afzali, the lawyer representing the Iranian students, said that she hopes the investigation will provide more information about TCF Bank’s decision as well as raise awareness on the legal implications of the sanctions for Iranians in the U.S.
 
“It is critical to pursue cases like this in which ordinary Iranian noncitizens in the U.S. are being punished because of sanctions which are supposed to be targeting the Iranian government,” said Afzali. “If we don’t fight against occurrences like the TCF Bank case, discrimination against innocent Iranians will persist.”
 
In 2012, at least 22 Iranian students of the University of Minnesota received letters from TCF Bank stating that their accounts would be suddenly terminated. In December 2013, three international students at the University of Minnesota and a spouse of one of the students filed charges of discrimination against TCF Bank with MDHR. The state agency will now pursue a neutral fact finding investigation to determine if TCF Bank intentionally discriminated against Iranian noncitizens. 
 
 
“These students came to the U.S. to study and to make a better life for themselves,” said Afzali. “Instead, they are being caught in a dispute between two governments and being discriminated against by companies in their attempt to enforce sanctions.”
 
###

 

 

 

Iran Sanctions Threat Ties U.S. Hands

For all the problems with the new push for sanctions against Iran in the U.S. Senate, one is hardly new: the growing efforts to place limits on the president’s authority to lift sanctions.

Increasingly, Congress has circumscribed the executive’s negotiating leverage by providing only limited authorities for the president to waive sanctions, upping the political cost of doing so, and requiring Congress’s approval before any permanent sanctions relief is granted.

Some in Congress see this ploy as part of the good cop bad cop routine, arguing that President Obama will be able to strike a harder bargain if Iran’s negotiators see what awaits the collapse of negotiations. But in this case, limiting the president’s authority to lift sanctions actually weakens the leverage of U.S. negotiators. It is a simple contract dilemma: if one party is perceived to have difficulties in holding up their end of the bargain, the other party can raise the cost of performance to cover that risk.

Consider the process of securing a bank loan: the worst way to negotiate good terms would be to damage your credit rating and signal that you are unlikely to be able pay down your commitment. Similarly, by withholding the powers to lift the sanctions from the President, Congress is sending U.S negotiators into the next phase of negotiations with a poor credit score. While U.S. diplomats are seasoned enough to secure a deal between the P5+1 and Iran, the uncertainty over whether Obama can deliver on its pledges enables Tehran to demand tougher terms than would otherwise be possible. And, so long as the repeal or termination of sanctions is contingent on a Congress that much of the world views as hostile to a negotiated solution, we can expect Iran to strike a hard bargain.

Congress’s efforts are particularly frustrating because the United States actually does have significant leverage. The potential for Iran to rejoin and reintegrate with the global economic and financial system after decades of relative isolation is an enticing prospect for Tehran – especially for Iran’s technocratic elite, of which President Hassan Rouhani is a part. Since the 1990s, this faction in Iran’s domestic politics has sought to restructure Iran’s economy away from the bazaar and towards the rest of the world. The temptation of a globally integrated economy, with Iran establishing itself as a beachfront for technological innovation and ingenuity, may well outweigh the dubious benefits of an industrial-scale civilian nuclear program with little practical benefit.

However, while the United States holds this card, it can play it only insofar as Iran has confidence in the White House’s ability to follow through on any deal. This is negotiation, after all, not commandeering, and the United States will only be able to get what it gives. If Congress is interested in enhancing President Obama’s leverage to secure a strong deal that curbs Iran’s nuclear program and ensures Iran remains on the right side of the nonproliferation line, it should provide him full authority not just to waive but to lift sanctions completely as part of the diplomatic process. This means credibly signaling to Iran and the international community that our diplomats do indeed hold the keys to welcome Iran into the global community should sufficient concessions be forthcoming.

Ultimately, at a time when Iran’s leadership has signaled full support for its own negotiators, it would be lamentable if Congress failed to do the same for our own.

(This article originally appeared in CNN)