November 23, 2021 | Mosaic

How America Lost Its Leverage on Iran

Ten years ago, two senators, one Republican and one Democrat, joined together to force America to sanction Iran. In the years since, the leverage they built has dissipated. Why?
November 23, 2021 | Mosaic

How America Lost Its Leverage on Iran

Ten years ago, two senators, one Republican and one Democrat, joined together to force America to sanction Iran. In the years since, the leverage they built has dissipated. Why?

Excerpt

Next week, President Joe Biden will send his envoys back to Vienna for yet another round of indirect talks with Iran. This will be Iran’s first multilateral engagement over its nuclear program since President Ebrahim Raisi took office in August. But while the cast has changed, the Iranian script remains the same as it was when negotiations began during Barack Obama’s first term: buy time to stabilize an economy freed of the burdens imposed by U.S. sanctions enforcement, obscure its clandestine nuclear activities from international inspectors, and secure future pathways to nuclear weapons.

Without an unexpected change in direction, it should come as no surprise if, in the months ahead, we learn of an Israeli airstrike on Iran’s nuclear facilities—or that Iran has tested a nuclear weapon. But for those in Congress who still hold out hope that Iran’s nuclear program can be dismantled through coercive diplomacy, the window for taking action is closing fast. A showdown in Congress about whether to preserve any economic leverage over Tehran may soon emerge from Biden’s diplomatic foray in Vienna. The results may leave America with only two options: military action or a nuclear-armed Iran.

This month marks the tenth anniversary of one of the most impressive foreign-policy accomplishments in the history of the Senate. Facing the ever-growing threat from Iran’s nuclear program, alongside the regime’s continued sponsorship of terrorism and accelerated ballistic-missile development, two U.S. senators—the Republican Mark Kirk and the Democrat Robert Menendez—introduced an amendment to the annual defense bill that would impose sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran. The sanctions would attack the economic lifeblood of the Islamic Republic—its oil export revenue—and cut the country off from the international financial system.

Richard Goldberg is a Mosaic columnist and senior advisor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He has served on Capitol Hill, on the U.S. National Security Council, as the chief of staff for Illinois’s governor, and as a Navy Reserve Intelligence Officer. Follow Richard on Twitter @rich_goldberg. FDD is a Washington, D.C.-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

Read in Mosaic

Issues:

Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran Nuclear Iran Politics and Economy Iran Sanctions Sanctions and Illicit Finance