United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Report: Who Has Authority to Lift US Sanctions on Iran

A new Congressional Research Service report by Dianne Rennack lays out the legislative basis for sanctions on Iran, as well as the authority of Congress and the President to waive or lift sanctions. The ability to impose and remove sanctions with “some nimbleness and responsiveness to changing events” is crucial for advancing foreign policy objectives, according to Rennack. The following are excerpts from the report.

The regime of economic sanctions against Iran is arguably the most complex the United States and the international community have ever imposed on a rogue state. Iran’s economy was once integrated into world trade, markets, and banking. As relations deteriorated, for the United States starting during Iran’s 1979 revolution and hostage-taking at the U.S. Embassy, and for the larger international community over more recent human rights, regional stability, and nuclear proliferation concerns, this complete economic integration offered seemingly limitless opportunities to impose economic restrictions and create points where pressure could be applied to bring Iran back into conformity with international norms.
 
The June 2013 election of President Hassan Rouhani seemed to have created the possibility of an opening between the United States and Iran. The presidents of each nation addressed a fall 2013 meeting of the U.N. General Assembly, and spoke directly to one another shortly thereafter—the first direct contact at the top level in 34 years. Diplomatic staff representing the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain (permanent members of the U.N. Security Council), plus Germany (P5+1),1 met with Iran’s foreign ministry in mid-October 2013 on the heels of that contact. Over November 7-9, 2013, these negotiators drafted an interim deal that would require Iran to limit its nuclear program and, in exchange, require the United States and others to ease economic sanctions affecting Iran’s access to some of its hard currency held abroad. The P5+1 and Iran negotiators agreed to a Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) on November 24, 2013, under which Iran would commit to placing “meaningful limits on its nuclear program,” and the P5+1 states would “provide Iran with limited, targeted, and reversible sanctions relief for a six-month period.” Subsequently, all parties agreed to extend the terms of the JPOA an additional six months, to July 20, 2014, and again to November 24, 2014. As the November deadline was reached without final agreement, all parties extended terms of the JPOA—including sanctions relief—through June 30, 2015.
 
The sudden possibility that the United States may ease financial sector sanctions, and perhaps commit to an eventual dismantling of the entire panoply of economic restrictions on Iran affecting aid, trade, shipping, banking, insurance, underwriting, and support in the international financial institutions, arrived at a time when Congress had been considering additional sanctions on Iran.
 
The 114th Congress enacted the Iran Nuclear Agreement Act of 2015,6 and the President signed the measure into law on May 22, 2015.7 The act, by amending the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, requires the President to send any agreement reached with Iran relating to its nuclear program to the Senate Committees on Finance; Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; Select Committee on Intelligence; and Foreign Relations; the House Committees on Ways and Means; Financial Services; Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence; Foreign Affairs; and majority and minority leaders in each chamber, within five days. Transmittal to Congress includes any supporting material, including a verification assessment report to be completed by the Secretary of State. The act affords Congress a period of time to review the agreement and assessment, during which “the President may not waive, suspend, reduce, provide relief from, or otherwise limit the application of statutory sanctions with respect to Iran under any provision of law or refrain from applying any such sanctions pursuant to an agreement.... ”
 
Click here for the full report
 

Tehran’s Promise

Robin Wright (for The New Yorker)

Iran’s revolutionaries are aging. Most are in their late fifties, sixties, or seventies. The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, turned seventy-six this month. More than sixty per cent of Iran’s eighty million people are under the age of thirty-five. A baby-boom generation, born after the revolution, doesn’t share all of its priorities.

 

Click here to read the full article in The New Yorker.

Nuclear Deal: Proxy for Larger Debate

The final nuclear deal is a “proxy for a more fundamental debate” in both Iran and the United States, according to Robert Litwak in the latest edition of the Wilson Center’s Viewpoints series. For Tehran, it is about identity and relations with the international community. For Washington, it raises questions about American strategy towards “rogue states.” The following are excerpts from Litwak’s article.

The nuclear agreement between the P5+1 and Iran, concluded in Vienna on July 14, has been called a milestone and a historic chance by some, an act of appeasement and a historic mistake by others. On the surface, the deal is a straightforward tradeoff between technology and transparency: Iran is permitted to retain a bounded nuclear program in return for assurances that it is not masquerading as a weapons program. That getting to yes required protracted negotiations and has generated such sharply divergent reactions reflects the persisting nature of the debate over this proliferation challenge.
 
In both Iran and America, the nuclear issue remains a proxy for a more fundamental debate. In Iran, it is a surrogate for the defining debate over the Islamic Republic’s relationship with the outside world, in general, and America—the “Great Satan”—in particular. In the United States, the nuclear challenge is embedded in the broader issue of American strategy toward so-called “rogue states,” such as Iran. After 9/11, the Bush administration argued that the threat posed by the rogues derived from the very character of their regimes, which was central to its case for a preventive war of regime change in Iraq.
 
President Barack Obama campaigned in 2008 on the controversial platform of engaging adversarial states. Upon assuming office, he reframed the debate on Iran, dropping the unilateral American “rogue” rubric, and instead characterizing the Islamic Republic as an “outlier”—a state violating established international norms. The Tehran regime was given a structured choice: come into compliance with Iran’s obligations under the Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty or face punitive measures and deeper isolation. This recasting of the Iranian nuclear challenge helped forge broad multilateral support for the tough financial and oil sanctions that brought Iran back to the negotiating table under the reformist President Hassan Rouhani.
 
The 109-page nuclear accord (including 5 annexes) fulfills the parameters of the interim framework reached in Lausanne on April 2. The deal offers both sides a winning political narrative. The Obama administration can highlight the meaningful constraints the agreement places on Iran’s nuclear program—cutting off the plutonium route to a bomb and sharply reducing the number of centrifuges to the sole uranium enrichment site at Natanz—and the extension to one year of the “breakout” time Iran would need to acquire a nuclear weapon if the Tehran regime made that strategic decision. President Rouhani and his chief negotiator, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, can argue that they codified Iran’s sovereign “right” to enrich uranium and stood up to American bullying.
 
President Obama, challenging his critics to offer a better alternative to the deal, has argued that the only alternative to diplomacy is force. That option—what, by now, would be the most telegraphed punch in history—has major liabilities. A military strike on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure would only delay not end the program, could well escalate into a war with Iran, carries the risk of spewing radioactive toxins into the environment, and could have the perverse effect of domestically bolstering the theocratic regime in the wake of a foreign attack.
 
Click here for the full article
 
Tags: Nuclear

US Public Opinion on Iran Deal

Recent polls found that a slight majority of Americans support the nuclear deal between Iran and the world’s six major powers. The following are excerpted results from the surveys.

Public Policy Polling Survey
 
A Public Policy Polling study found that 54 percent either strongly support or somewhat support the deal. A slight majority also believe Congress should allow the agreement to be implemented. The survey was conducted July 23-24.
 
Q: The US and other countries have reached an agreement to place limits on Iran’s nuclear program in order to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. In exchange for limiting its nuclear program, Iran would receive gradual relief from US and international economic sanctions. The International Atomic Energy Agency would monitor Iran’s facilities and if Iran was caught breaking the agreement, the current economic sanctions would be imposed again. Would you say you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose this agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program?
 
  • Strongly support: 35 percent
  • Somewhat support: 19 percent
  • Somewhat oppose: 6 percent
  • Strongly oppose: 32 percent
  • Not sure: 8 percent
 
Q: Do you think your members of Congress should vote to allow this agreement to go forward and closely monitor how the agreement is being implemented, or do you think your members of Congress should vote to block the agreement and prevent it from being implemented?
 
  • Members of Congress should vote to allow the agreement to go forward and closely monitor how the agreement is being implemented: 54 percent
  • Members of Congress should block the agreement and prevent it from being implemented: 39 percent
  • Not sure: 7 percent
 
Click here for more information
 
Washington Post-ABC News Poll
 
A Washington Post-ABC News poll also found that a slight majority supported the deal. But nearly two thirds are not confident that the agreement will prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The survey was conducted July 16-19.
 
Q: The U.S. and other countries have announced a deal to lift economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for Iran agreeing not to produce nuclear weapons. International inspectors would monitor Iran’s facilities, and if Iran is caught breaking the agreement economic sanctions would be imposed again. Do you support or oppose this agreement?
 
  • Support: 56 percent
  • Oppose: 37 percent
  • No opinion: 7 percent
 
Q: How confident are you that this agreement will prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons?
 
  • Very confident: 6 percent
  • Somewhat confident: 29 percent
  • Not so confident: 22 percent
  • Not at all confident: 42 percent
  • No opinion: 1 percent
 
Click here for more information.
 
YouGov Poll
 
A YouGov poll found that 43 percent of Americans support the deal, but only 30 percent oppose it. Around 26 percent are undecided. The survey was conducted July 14-16.
 
Q: Several world powers, including the United States, have reached an international agreement that will limit Iran’s nuclear activity in return for the lifting of major economic sanctions against Iran. Do you support or oppose this agreement?
 
  • Support: 43 percent
  • Oppose: 30 percent
  • Not sure: 26 percent
 
Q: How confident are you that the agreement will prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon?
 
  • Very confident: 5 percent
  • Somewhat confident: 18 percent
  • Not so confident: 27 percent
  • Not confident at all: 32 percent
  • Don’t know: 18 percent
 
Click here for more information
 
LA Jewish Journal Survey
 
The LA Jewish Journal found that 49 percent of American Jews support the deal, while 31 percent oppose it. The survey was conducted July 16-20.
 
Q: As you may know, an agreement was reached in which the United States and other countries would lift major economic sanctions against Iran, in exchange for Iran restricting its nuclear program in a way that makes it harder for it to produce nuclear weapons. Do you support or oppose this agreement, or don’t know enough to say?
 
 
American Jews
All Americans
Support
49 percent
28 percent
Oppose
31 percent
24 percent
 
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J Street Poll
 
J Street conducted a survey using the same question wording as the ABC News-Washington Post poll. It found that 60 percent of American Jews either strongly support or somewhat support the deal, slightly higher than the 56 percent of all Americans that support the deal.
 
Q: The U.S. and other countries have announced a deal to lift economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for Iran agreeing not to produce nuclear weapons. International inspectors would monitor Iran’s facilities, and if Iran is caught breaking the agreement economic sanctions would be imposed again. Do you support or oppose this agreement?
 
  • Strongly support: 18 percent
  • Somewhat support: 42 percent
  • Somewhat oppose: 16 percent
  • Strongly oppose: 24 percent
 
Click here for more information
 

Khamenei: Deal Won’t Change Policy on US

On July 18, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expressed support for the nuclear deal between Iran and the world’s major powers. “The result of a 10, 12-year struggle with the Islamic Republic is that they have been forced to tolerate the operation of several thousand centrifuges in the country,” he said after prayers marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Khamenei, however, emphasized that the agreement did not signal an end to Iran’s opposition to U.S. policies and Israel. “We have no negotiations with America on different global and regional issues,” he clarified.
 
Khamenei also pledged to continue Iranian support for regional allies such as Syrian President Bashar al Assad and Hezbollah, the Lebanese political party and militia. The following are key excerpts from his speech interspersed with tweets from his official account.
 
The first point is a word of thanks to officials in charge of these long and arduous negotiations - the honorable President and particularly the negotiation team who really made great efforts and worked hard. They will certainly be divinely rewarded whether the document that has been prepared will- through its determined legal procedures- be ratified or not. We have said this to those brothers in person as well.
 
Of course in order to ratify this document, there is a clear legal procedure that, by Allah's favor, has to be taken. We expect that these officials take the interests- interests of the country, interests of the people- into consideration by paying careful attention, so that when they deliver the matter to the people, they can do so with their heads held high in front of Allah the Exalted as well.
 
The next point is that by Allah's favor and grace, no one will be allowed to take advantage of this document in any way and to undermine the fundamental principles of the Islamic Republic whether this document is ratified or not.
 
The Islamic Republic will never give in to the enemy's greed in the area of protecting its defense capabilities and security- particularly in this environment filled with the enemies' threats.
 
The next point is that whether this document is ratified or not, we will not abandon our regional friends: the oppressed people of Palestine, the oppressed people of Yemen, the people and government of Syria, the people and government of Iraq, the oppressed people of Bahrain and the sincere mujahids of the Resistance in Lebanon and Palestine. These people will always enjoy our support.
 
The next point is that our policy towards the arrogant government of America will not change in any way despite these negotiations and the document that has been prepared. As we have said many times, we have no negotiations with America on different global and regional issues. We have no bilateral negotiations with America. Sometimes, we have negotiated with them in exceptional cases such as the nuclear issue and we have done so because of our interests. The nuclear issue was not the only case. There were other cases as well which I have referred to in my previous public speeches. The American policies in the region are 180 degrees the opposite of the policies of the Islamic Republic. The Americans accuse Hezbollah and the Lebanese Resistance - who are the most self-sacrificing forces in their country in the area of national defense - of terrorism. There is no injustice worse than this. This is while they support the terrorist child-killing government of Zionism. How can one do business, negotiate and reach an agreement with such a policy? There are other cases as well and I will expand on them in other speeches.
 
Another point is about the Americans' blustering in recent days. In the recent days that the negotiations have been concluded, the American excellencies - their male and female officials - are busy blustering. Each of them is blustering in a different way. Of course, this is alright with us. Their domestic problems force them into blustering. They claim that they have dragged Iran towards the negotiating table, that they have made Iran surrender, that they have obtained such and such concessions from our country and other such claims. However, the truth is something else. They say that they have prevented Iran from building nuclear weapons, but this has nothing to do with our negotiations with America and other countries. They themselves know this and sometimes they have spoken about the importance of the fatwa that bans nuclear weapons.
 
According to the commands of the Holy Quran and Islamic sharia, we consider building, keeping and using nuclear weapons as haraam [forbidden] and therefore, we will not do so. This has nothing to do with them and with these negotiations. They themselves know that this is the truth. They know that what prevents the Islamic Republic from building nuclear weapons is not their threats and intimidating behavior. There is a religious barrier behind this and they know the significance of this fatwa, but they still claim that it was they who prevented Iran. They are not honest with their own people and they do not tell them the truth. On various other matters, they say that they have adopted such and such a measure about Iran's nuclear industry and that they have forced Iran to surrender, but they can only see Iran's surrender in their dreams.
 
From the beginning of the Revolution until today, five other U.S. presidents died or were lost in history dreaming that they would force the Islamic Republic to surrender. You too will enjoy the same fate. You too will never achieve the dream of forcing the Islamic Republic to surrender.
 
There was one point in the statements that the American president made in recent days: he admitted to America's past mistakes. Of course, he said a hodgepodge of things. He admitted that the Americans made a mistake in Iran on the 28th of Mordad. He admitted that the Americans made a mistake in helping Saddam Hussein. He admitted to two, three mistakes, but he did not mention tens of others. He did not speak about the 25-year oppressive and treacherous rule of the second Pahlavi monarch. He did not speak about the many instances of torture, looting, massacre, disaster and calamity that were caused by America. He did not speak about the destruction of the Iranian peoples' dignity and America's efforts to trample upon their domestic and foreign interests. He did not speak about the Zionists' domination, the killing of Iranian passengers on a passenger plane and many other things. Nonetheless, he mentioned a number of mistakes.
 
I would like to offer a friendly word of advice to these excellencies: today - after the passage of many years from the 28th of Mordad, the eight-year war and the defense that the Islamic Republic put up there - you acknowledge that you have made certain mistakes. I would like to say to you that you are making a mistake in the present time as well. In the present time too, you are busy making mistakes in different places in the region and particularly towards the Islamic Republic and the people of Iran. In a few years, someone else will turn up and show you your mistakes, just as today you are admitting to the mistakes that your predecessors made. You are making mistakes as well. Therefore, you should awaken, correct your mistakes and understand the truth. You are making grave mistakes in the region.
What I want to say to the people of Iran is that by Allah's favor and grace, the Islamic Republic has become powerful and strong. It has become stronger on a daily basis. It is 10, 12 years now that six great global powers - which are among powerful countries in the world in terms of economic wealth - have been sitting in front of Iran, trying to prevent it from pursuing its nuclear industry. They have said this openly. Their real goal is to open the nuts and bolts of the nuclear industry. They have said this to our officials many years ago. In the present time too, they pursue the same dream. The result of a 10, 12-year struggle with the Islamic Republic is that they have been forced to tolerate the operation of several thousand centrifuges in the country. They have been forced to tolerate the continuation of this industry in our country. They have been forced to tolerate the development of this industry and the continuation of research on it. Research and developing the nuclear industry will continue. The cycle of the nuclear industry will continue.
 
This is what they have been trying to prevent for many years, but today they have signed on paper that they have no problem with our nuclear industry. Apart from the power of the Iranian people, what other meaning does this have? This has been achieved because of the people's resistance and steadfastness and our dear scientists' courage and innovation. God's mercy be upon the likes of Shahriari, Rezainejad, Ahmadi Roshan and Ali Muhammadi. God's mercy be upon our nuclear martyrs. God's mercy be upon their families. God's mercy be upon a people who stand by their truthful claims and rights.
 
I would like to raise another point which is the last one. An individual has said that he can destroy Iran's army. Our predecessors used to call such statements, "boasting among strangers. " I do not want to say anything more in this regard. If those who will hear this statement want to know the truth and if they are willing to use their experiences correctly, they should know that should any war break out - of course we do not welcome and begin any war - he who will emerge humiliated [literally: "head-cracked"] out of it, will be transgressing and criminal America.
 

Click here for the full speech.

 

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