A campaign to impose new "maximum sanctions" on Iran could force the regime to "come begging" to the United States for relief, according to a senior House Democrat.
"If we do enough, they will come begging to us to have negotiations on all the pending issues, including the inadequacies of the nuclear deal," Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., said Monday during a Hudson Institute event.
That theory has underpinned the logic of Iran hawks who urged President Trump to threaten a withdrawal from the nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. But Sherman's position differs crucially from those other hawks, as he discouraged disturbing the agreement even though he voted against it in 2015.
"We need the maximum sanctions, the maximum enforcement of nuclear restrictions, and the maximum international support," he said.
That need for international support led him to argue that Trump's team should not scrap the nuclear deal, which saw former President Obama waive U.S. sanctions on Iran in exchange for restrictions on the regime's nuclear program. Sherman said the U.S. must be careful not to lose support from other governments that helped strike the deal.
"Doing that would cause Europe not to support our additional sanctions, and many in the world would even say Iran was then free to reopen its nuclear program without inspections or restrictions," Sherman warned.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., disagrees. He lobbied Trump successfully to refuse to affirm the value of the Iran deal at a congressionally-mandated deadline. That move set the stage for a possible renewal of U.S. sanctions, but Cotton suggested that the threat of new measures would force Iran to agree to new curbs on their aggressive behavior. And if that failed, he argued, Europe would renew its sanctions, however begrudgingly, rather than risk secondary sanctions from the United States.
"Our allies in Europe and Asia at that point can decide whether they would like to do business with the largest economy in the world ... or a terror-sponsoring country's economy that's approximately the size of the Maryland's economy," Cotton told the Washington Examiner in September. "I think that's a pretty easy choice for foreign leaders."
Sherman maintained that it's an unnecessary risk, and said the "supply of evil" coming from Iran justifies intense sanctions without regard to the JCPOA.
"We can impose the maximum sanctions without even mentioning the Iran deal," Sherman said. "And then we will have European support as we point to almost 500,000 dead Syrian civilians, a direct responsibility of Iran, as we point to the terrorism around the world, as we point to how they treat their own people and the execution of those in the LGBT community. There is no shortage of reason to impose sanctions on Iran."