President Trump should impose sanctions against any entity that received a waiver under the Iran nuclear deal, a House Republican argued following the recent Iran protests.
“It’s time to deprive the regime of further resources to repress their own people and terrorize its neighbors, and target all regime-owned entities with robust economic sanctions — no person, bank, or commodity should be off-limits,” Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., told the Washington Examiner.
Such an expansive sanctions package is targeted particularly at the Central Bank of Iran, the locus of some of the most significant economic relief that former President Barack Obama provided in exchange for Iranian nuclear concessions. Roskam, a prominent Iran hawk who worked closely with the White House on tax reform, argued that the recent protests within Iran justify the move.
“The U.S. must use all tools at its disposal to support the Iranian people in their efforts to make their country free, just, peaceful, and democratic,” he said. “We should target the Central Bank of Iran for bankrolling the Revolutionary Guards and Basij Forces as they murder Iranian civilians in the streets, and we should target Iran Air for supporting Assad’s murderous regime and Iran’s terror proxies abroad.”
Trump faces a pair of deadlines pertaining to the Iran deal in January, which could see him maintain the current U.S. policy of complying with the deal or make a major shift to escalate American pressure on the regime.
The semiannual deadline on Friday to renew the Central Bank of Iran sanctions waiver is especially significant. “If you're going to 'blow up the deal,’ from a Democrats' view, that's what they're looking at,” a senior Republican foreign policy expert told the Washington Examiner.
Obama touted the CBI provisions as a key part of the “crippling” sanctions package imposed in the run-up to the nuclear talks, as the United States “undermine[d] Iran’s ability to sell its oil internationally.” U.S. negotiators agreed to remove that crimp in exchange for the rollback of Iran’s nuclear weapons program and a new inspections regime outlined in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Some Iran hawks maintain that Trump can renew the sanctions on the basis of human rights abuses, without violating U.S. commitments under the Iran deal. “The nuclear deal does not actually prohibit the United States from imposing sanctions on any entity that is involved in non-nuclear illicit activity," Richard Goldberg, a former Senate Republican aide and Iran sanctions expert at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told the Washington Examiner.
“If a bank or the central bank is propping up the Revolutionary Guard Corps as they're sending the Guard Corps into the streets to put down the uprising, there's a pretty strong case to make that the president can re-impose sanctions in some way on a variety of these banks or entities or officials and still claim to be complying with the nuclear agreement," he continued.
Roskam adopted a similar position. “As we approach deadlines related to the JCPOA in the coming weeks, we must understand two important things: remaining in the nuclear deal in its current form without major improvements is not in our national security interests, and we cannot be constrained by it as we craft a coherent policy to counter the Iranian threat,” he said.
Key European allies made clear last week that they oppose such tactics, notwithstanding the outbreak of protests.
“We must commit to fully upholding the nuclear agreement with Iran,” French Ambassador to the United Nations Francois Delattre said Friday during a Security Council meeting. “We must be wary of any attempt to exploit this crisis for personal ends.”