September 11, 2015 | Quote

Sanctions Debate Emerges From Shadow of Iran Nuclear Accord

President Obama, in advance of his victory in Congress on Thursday on the Iran nuclear deal, focused on centrifuge numbers, uranium stockpiles and the breakout time to build a bomb. But now, as the agreement is carried out, he will face a new battle over how stringently to impose economic sanctions on Iran.

To reward Iran for imposing constraints on its nuclear program, the United States agreed to lift many of the crippling sanctions that have blocked the country’s integration into the world economy. But to win over wary Democrats, Mr. Obama promised that he would maintain — and perhaps even increase — sanctions to punish Iran for terrorism, human rights abuses and other “destabilizing activities in the region.”

Many lawmakers have indicated they would like to go further, and they are considering legislative proposals that include renewing the current sanctions against foreign companies that invest in Iran’s energy industry. Mr. Obama would waive them as long as Iran complied with the nuclear accord, but it would be a signal that Iran is not to be trusted and that sanctions could be restored rapidly.


Even as the accord moves forward, Mark Dubowitz, an Iran sanctions expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which opposes the nuclear accord, said that lawmakers would most likely push for a tougher stance, including some legislators who support the agreement but want to hedge their bets. One idea is to designate the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization and thus discourage business with the hundreds of companies in which the Guards are believed to have a minority stake or over which they have influence through board membership or through their role as key executives.

“It is not enough to merely target the Quds Force, which is controlled by the Revolutionary Guards, for its terrorist activities. The designations of the Guards would create a whole new dimension of reputational and legal risk,” he said. “It would result in a powerful deterrent for international banks and companies contemplating doing business with the most dangerous element of the regime.”


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