New Sanctions Would Foreclose Nonmilitary Options for Iran

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–January 17, 2014.  Today, as some in Congress press forward with efforts to pass new sanctions measures, the Center for American Progress released an analysis warning such action would very likely break up the talks and seriously diminish any possibility of a negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear issue.

“The United States is currently engaged in highly sensitive negotiations that, if successful, would have huge positive implications for our national security as well as the security of our partners,” said Matthew Duss, Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress. “Passing new sanctions measures right now would seriously reduce the chances of these negotiations being successful. There’s no good argument for this course of action, especially because Congress can pass new sanctions if Iran reneges on its commitments.”

While sanctions pressure is clearly one factor in Iran’s new conciliatory posture toward nuclear negotiations, it is not the only one. The most important factor is last year’s election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who campaigned on a platform of improving relations with the international community, easing Iran’s isolation and lessening tensions over the nuclear program. Even though he was not the preferred candidate of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, for now Rouhani has Khamenei’s support to negotiate. If, however, the negotiations do not progress, that support could be withdrawn, negotiations would end, and the United States and its partners would be left with nothing but bad options.

Sanctions supporters also claim that new sanctions will give the administration greater leverage over the Iranians.The administration, in response, has repeatedly stressed that the current sanctions regime, the toughest on any country in history, gives it the necessary negotiating leverage, and warned that further sanctions could hurt the chances for a comprehensive deal, both by increasing tensions within the P5+1, whose unity has been essential in bringing us to this point, and by empowering the Rouhani administration’s own hardline critics within the Iranian government, thereby raising political costs for a deal on the Iranian side, perhaps prohibitively.

While sanctions have made a considerable impact on Iran’s economy, there’s little evidence that the country is at a breaking point. The Islamic Republic has shown in the past, most notably during the Iran-Iraq war, that it is willing to endure extreme difficulties in defense of what it perceives as its core national interests. As Iran is taking steps toward addressing concerns over its nuclear program, it’s important that the United States and its partners show that they are willing to affirm those steps.

By describing an end-state deal that denies Iran any domestic enrichment capability, supporters of the Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act are creating an insurmountable obstacle to an agreement. While an agreement that completely dismantled Iran’s nuclear program—and therefore removed any possibility that it could produce a nuclear weapon—would be ideal, virtually no one familiar with the realities of Iranian politics, including the former head of Israeli military intelligence, believes that such an outcome is achievable.

A more practical and realistic option is one that accepts a small amount of Iranian domestic enrichment, under heavy and intrusive international inspection, while capping the amount of enriched uranium that Iran keeps inside the country. A successful agreement is one that extends the amount of time in which Iran could conceivably dash for a nuclear weapon, thereby significantly increasing the likelihood that such a move would be detected by international inspectors.

Read the analysis: New Sanctions Would Foreclose Nonmilitary Options for Iran by Matthew Duss