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August 20, 2013 0

Sanctions Are A Vital Component Of Diplomacy To Prevent A Nuclear Iran

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August 2013 inau­gu­ra­tion of Iran­ian Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani (right)

Just before the halls of Con­gress emp­tied out for August Recess, the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives passed H.R. 850, the Nuclear Iran Pre­ven­tion Act, by an over­whelm­ing 400–20, bipar­ti­san vote.  That leg­is­la­tion would greatly expand the scope of inter­na­tional finan­cial trans­ac­tions with Iran sub­ject to U.S. penalty and would greatly shrink the amount of oil import­ing nations can buy from Iran with­out U.S. penalty. 

While there is agree­ment across the board that the Iran­ian regime can­not be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapons capa­bil­ity, the debate about the role of sanc­tions in diplo­macy con­tin­ues.  Some in Con­gress argue against tougher sanc­tions, say­ing newly inau­gu­rated Iran­ian Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani should first be given a chance to show that Iran­ian intran­si­gence at the nego­ti­at­ing table has ended.  On the other side, just days after the House bill passed, 76 sen­a­tors sent a let­ter to Pres­i­dent Obama, say­ing “we believe our nation must toughen sanc­tions” and ask­ing him to bring a “renewed sense of urgency to the process.”

Rouhani should be judged by his actions, not his sooth­ing state­ments, and his his­tory as the chief nuclear nego­tia­tor, from 2003 to 2005, sup­ports the skep­tics.  Describ­ing his pre­vi­ous nego­ti­a­tion tac­tics, he said in 2004: “While we were talk­ing with the Euro­peans in Tehran, we were installing equip­ment in parts of the facil­ity in Isfa­han. By cre­at­ing a calm envi­ron­ment, we were able to com­plete the work in Isfa­han.”  Today, the regime con­tin­ues to enrich ura­nium, install more cen­trifuges, and make progress on its plutonium-producing Arak reac­tor.   As recently reported by The Insti­tute for Sci­ence and Inter­na­tional Secu­rity, at its cur­rent pace of devel­op­ment, Iran should have enough cen­trifuges installed to enrich a bomb’s worth of ura­nium to weapons grade – with­out detec­tion – by the mid­dle of next year.

Even more severe sanc­tions will sup­port diplo­macy, not hin­der it, by rais­ing the cost of delay and defi­ance.  As Pres­i­dent Obama him­self said in his Nobel Peace Prize speech, “Sanc­tions must exact a real price.  Intran­si­gence must be met with increased pres­sure” and sanc­tions must be “tough enough to actu­ally change behav­ior.”  Clearly, we’re not there yet.

ADL con­tin­ues to sup­port sanc­tions leg­is­la­tion that pro­vides the Admin­is­tra­tion with a full range of diplo­matic, eco­nomic, and legal tools to pres­sure the world’s lead­ing state spon­sor of ter­ror into ver­i­fi­ably renounc­ing its nuclear weapons program.  

When Con­gress returns from its five-week recess, we hope the Sen­ate will fol­low the House’s lead on this issue and swiftly pass leg­is­la­tion akin to the Nuclear Iran Pre­ven­tion Act.

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