January 27, 2015 | Press Release

New FDD Report Lays Out The ‘Case for Deadline-Triggered Sanctions’ Against Iran

WASHINGTON – A new report from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and its Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance lays out the arguments for new sanctions against Iran, stressing the value of deadline-triggered sanctions as part of a strategy to reverse the troubling dynamic of decreasing U.S. leverage and continuing Iranian intransigence.

The report, “The Case for Deadline-Triggered Sanctions on Iran,” is co-authored by Mark Dubowitz, FDD’s executive director and director of CSIF, and CSIF policy analyst Annie Fixler, with a forward by Juan Zarate, a former White House and Treasury official and CSIF senior counselor. It outlines the history of sanctions escalation and de-escalation on Iran, assesses the state of U.S. negotiating leverage, and deconstructs the Obama administration’s eight main arguments against deadline-triggered sanctions.

“Supporters of deadline-triggered sanctions believe that increased economic pressure on Iran will help prevent war with Iran,” the report concludes. “As the Obama administration has acknowledged, economic sanctions, including the congressional measures passed over the administration’s objections, are the reason that Iran is negotiating seriously today. They remain the most effective tool for convincing Iran of the necessity of nuclear compromise, for ensuring Iranian compliance with a comprehensive agreement, and for punishing Iranian non-compliance.”

In a forward to the report, Zarate, former deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for combatting terrorism and former assistant secretary of the Treasury for terrorist financing and financial crimes, said:

“U.S. sanctions were put in place to address specific, discrete conduct and therefore must remain in place and be vigorously enforced to protect not just U.S. national security but the integrity of the global financial system until Iran ceases all of its illicit activities, from money laundering and illicit finance to weapons proliferation and support for terrorism.”

While emphasizing the importance of enforcing existing sanctions, Zarate noted that sanctions relief has led to modest growth in Iran’s economy and reduced U.S. leverage:

“It can be argued, and indeed reports from Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Roubini Global Economics have made a compelling case, that economic growth in Iran is reducing U.S. leverage in the negotiations while resiliency in the Iranian economy reduces its vulnerabilities to economic pressure in the future should additional sanctions be necessary. The drop in oil prices – though harmful to Iran’s economy in the short term – may not be enough to alter Tehran’s calculus.”

Dubowitz, who testified before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee Tuesday on the benefits of deadline-triggered sanctions, argues that deadline-triggered sanctions measures will not cause Iran to permanently walk away from negotiations. “Despite multiple rounds of sanctions, Iran has remained at the negotiating table for over a decade, using talks to legitimize its nuclear weapons program and to avoid a full U.S.-led financial and trade embargo.” He said that if Tehran terminated the talks, it would trigger even more severe sanctions than are currently being contemplated, including a complete financial and trade embargo that could cripple Iran’s economy and put the regime’s survival in question.

In the forward, Zarate cautioned that any delay in implementing sanctions could further erode U.S. negotiating leverage:

“The administration has stated that it can impose sanctions on Iran within one day of a missed nuclear deadline,” Zarate said. “However, the kind of financial and economic pressure on Iran that took years to construct cannot be turned on and off like a light switch. Even quickly implemented commercial or financial sanctions have a lagging effect on business decisions, commercial deals, and economic performance.”

Zarate said Dubowitz and Fixler’s report will be an asset to policymakers:

“In this report, Mark Dubowitz and Annie Fixler of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and my colleagues at FDD’s Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance, deserve credit for laying out an important case in support of these deadline-triggered sanctions while methodically deconstructing the White House’s main arguments against these measures,” Zarate wrote. “Policy experts may disagree with their assessment or the idea of leveraging the threat of additional sanctions now during negotiations. However, given FDD’s expertise on Iran sanctions over the past decade, anyone who cares about stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program cannot afford to ignore this report.”

The full report can be found here.

About the Foundation for Defense of Democracies:
The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) is a non-profit, non-partisan 501(c)3 policy institute focusing on foreign policy and national security. Founded in 2001, FDD combines policy research, democracy and counterterrorism education, strategic communications and investigative journalism in support of its mission to promote pluralism, defend democratic values and fight the ideologies that drive terrorism. Visit our website at www.defenddemocracy.org and connect with us on TwitterFacebook and YouTube.

About FDD’s Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance:

FDD’s Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance is a project designed to illuminate the critical intersection between illicit finance and national security. The Center relies on regional and sanctions expertise within FDD, including a core cadre of financial, economic, and area experts and analysts, to promote a greater understanding of illicit financing and economic threats. The center also designs creative and effective strategies, doctrines, and uses of financial and economic power to attack and protect against priority threats and vulnerabilities. More information on CSIF is available at www.defenddemocracy.org/csif.

Media Contact:
Matthew E. Berger, Senior Director of Communications
[email protected]


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