The National Iranian American Council issued the following statement regarding an effort to extend Congressional sanctions for an additional ten years:
The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) strongly opposes a controversial amendment from Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016 that would extend the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 from its current expiration of 2016 through 2026. This amendment would short-circuit Congressional consideration of sanctions relief in a final nuclear agreement and risk complicating ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran and derailing negotiations as they reach their endgame. If it comes up for a vote, NIAC strongly urges the Senate to reject it.
With a historic nuclear deal potentially just weeks away, Congress should wait to see the exact parameters of an agreement before considering whether to alter major pieces of Iran sanctions legislation. Given that the Iran Sanctions Act doesn’t expire until the end of 2016, there’s plenty of time to allow for the negotiations to play out and for Congress to review a final deal before considering any action regarding the ISA. Taking action on this matter now, in the middle of negotiations, would be premature and counterproductive.
Extending sanctions for ten years would send a dangerous signal on one of the most sensitive and unresolved areas remaining in the talks. There are legitimate questions about whether the U.S. will be able to deliver on the terms for sanctions relief under a nuclear deal, and the passage of this amendment would give credence to those concerns. Even if Iran acknowledges that U.S. sanctions won’t technically be lifted but rather suspended in the initial years of a deal, extending the ISA well into the future would boost Iranian hardliners and make the sell for difficult nuclear compromises in Iran even tougher.
A key premise of the recently-passed Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA) was that it would establish an orderly process for substantive debate by Congress regarding an Iran deal. As several of the bill’s supporters articulated, it ensures Congress will have its chance to weigh in on whether to support or oppose a nuclear deal and on the issue of sanctions, but only once the negotiations are completed. However, the Kirk-Menendez amendment is one of several offered to the NDAA regarding Iran that represent a breach of that bipartisan promise. Those who voted for the INARA and believe in an orderly review process should ensure that the Kirk-Menendez amendment and similar amendments are blocked as negotiators seek to finalize a nuclear deal.