July 31, 2015 | Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Sanctions and the JCPOA

Download full testimony here. 

Chairman Corker, Ranking Member Cardin, and distinguished members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I am honored to testify before your Committee to discuss the sanctions implications of the recently announced Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between the P5+1 and Iran. I am especially privileged to speak to the sanctions-related elements and dimensions of the JCPOA.

I take this responsibility seriously given the gravity, stakes, and implications of this agreement and Congress’s role in reviewing the JCPOA on behalf of the American people. The question of a nuclear-armed Iran is a critical security issue for the United States, our allies, the broader Middle East, the global non-proliferation regime, and has serious implications for the potential and future use of American power in all its forms.

I come to this issue with views born from relevant experience – as the first-ever assistant secretary of the treasury for terrorist financing and financial crimes until May 2005, and then as the deputy assistant to the President and deputy national security advisor for combatting terrorism (2005-2009). While in these positions, we shaped the financial constriction campaign against Iran starting in 2005, and confronted the world’s leading state sponsor of terror.

I also come to this issue now as an outside expert, having written, taught, and spoken extensively about the use of sanctions and financial power in national security; counterterrorism and transnational threats, strategy, and policies; and legal principles and constructs in national security decision-making, including in our coercive statecraft and diplomacy.

The task of negotiating a deal of this nature and complexity – with multiple parties and against an avowed enemy of the United States – has been a daunting and lengthy task. I know that those involved from the United States government – from multiple agencies and across two Administrations – have worked tirelessly on this issue.

And I know that all involved have been seeking a peaceful solution to the Iranian nuclear problem – through painstaking strategies of coercion, sanctions, and diplomacy. The financial and economic constriction campaign has been built methodically over the course of a decade to help drive the Iranian regime to the table and change the course of their nuclear program. Indeed, these efforts built on over three decades of sanctions against the Iranian regime for its support of terrorism, quest for a nuclear program, human rights abuses, and other dangerous activities.

These efforts have also been designed to constrain and isolate rogue Iranian behavior and protect the integrity of the U.S. and international financial systems. This was a monumental task, and there is no silver bullet that will get us everything we want in a deal.

Unfortunately, this is a flawed agreement. I have not been asked today to delineate all the gaps, problems, or challenges in the JCPOA, nor would I be qualified to do so. But I do want to point out three fundamental problems with the JCPOA that frame my analysis:

1. Problematic End State: Iran as a Nuclear Power.

2. Problematic Construct: Iran as Co-Equal.

3. Problematic Sanctions Relief: Constraints on U.S. Financial and Economic Power.