January 16, 2014, Washington, D.C. – The agreement last Sunday between the P5+1 and Iran to implement the Joint Plan of Action is a significant step towards resolving the calamity over Iran’s nuclear program peacefully.
On January 20th, Iran will, for the first time in a decade, freeze progress on its nuclear program and allow for new and intrusive inspections of its nuclear facilities. In return, Iran will receive modest sanctions relief, as our negotiators pursue the difficult goal of reaching a comprehensive deal that would effectively limit Iran’s nuclear program.
At the same time, 59 Senators have thus far co-sponsored a bill that would impose sweeping new sanctions against Iran if no final deal is reached or if Iran violates the interim deal. Furthermore, the bill inserts Congress into the negotiations by imposing certain conditions that must be included in a final deal.
PAAIA is concerned that the bill could potentially derail ongoing negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, impeding U.S. diplomacy and weakening our ability to maintain the international coalition on sanctions against Iran. If there is a perception that U.S. is not negotiating in good faith, then enthusiasm to comply with U.S. and international measures will fade.
The administration has asked Congress not to move forward with new sanctions legislation while talks with Iran are in progress. “I very much appreciate Congress’ critical role in imposing the sanctions that brought Iran to the table, but I feel just as strongly that now is not the time to impose additional sanctions that could threaten the entire negotiating process,” said Secretary of State John Kerry in a recent press release. “Now is not the time for politics. Now is the time for statesmanship, for the good of our country, the region, and the world.”
The Intelligence Community’s December 10, 2013 assessment states that “new sanctions would undermine the prospects for a successful comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran.”
If the passage of new U.S. sanctions now causes the breakdown of the diplomatic process, then military conflict —or an Iranian nuclear weapon—would become more, not less, likely.
Furthermore, imposing new legislation now could also strengthen hardliners in Iran, who want to see the collapse of diplomatic initiatives, and alienate the Iranian people, who want their country to move in a different direction and engage the international community in a positive way.
U.S. and international sanctions have had an impact on Iran’s leadership, pushing them toward the negotiating table. They remain in place, and the temporary easing of some sanctions could be reversed if Iran does not honor its commitments or agree to a final deal.
Now is the time to secure a meaningful final agreement that would ensure Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon. The window to reach a deal is limited. As negotiations proceed, the Senate should place Iran sanctions on hold.
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