INU staff, On Monday, Newser reported that there were signs that President Obama may be planning to deliver unilateral sanctions relief to Iran on the basis of a recent Treasury Department study. It asserts that the Obama administration has the authority to suspend sanctions on his own, without Congressional approval, although such approval would be necessary in order to make those suspensions permanent.
Permanent sanctions relief will require substantial proof of Iranian compliance with international efforts to rein in the nation’s nuclear program. Thus far that has not been forthcoming, as reiterated by the International Atomic Energy Agency on Monday. Reuters reports that agency head Yukiya Amano said the IAEA is still not able to provide “credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran.” He also repeated the agency’s insistence that Iran must swiftly undertake transparency measures that it had formerly agreed to, including five key steps that the Islamic Republic failed to complete by an agreed upon August 25 deadline.
The lack of IAEA assurances certainly diminishes the chances of approval for sanctions relief from the US Congress, which has taken a much harder line on Iran than the president has. That Congress and other Iran critics are thus concerned that Obama may push through with a deal even if it is not favorable to American interests. The Treasury Department report contributes further to these concerns.
An editorial at the American Thinker suggests that Obama has put the prospect of a “history-making” deal with Iran ahead of concerns over proper procedures and the actual terms that the US government will be made to agree with. The author also argues that the Obama administration will actively stand in the way of the reimplementation of economic sanctions even if the Iranian regime shows signs of continued pursuit of its nuclear program.
And on Sunday, Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz suggested that that is exactly the most likely outcome given the “wrong direction” that nuclear negotiations are currently taking. Steinitz worries that the Iran nuclear agreement will look similar to the one signed with North Korea, which led to Pyongyang developing several nuclear weapons anyway. Steinitz also warned that an Iranian nuclear weapon may have even more serious consequences because it will make it more difficult for the world community to prevent a race for nuclear weapons among other Middle Eastern powers, including non-state actors.
Furthermore, the Iranian intelligence minister called attention to the issue of economic sanctions, saying that Iran is receiving substantial relief in exchange for nothing of value. He points out that if sanctions are lifted, Iran may gain 100 billion dollars per year. If Tehran chooses to, it may be able to invest some of that money into clandestine nuclear activities, thus giving a major boost to the very program that the current negotiations were intended to constrain.
Iran’s economic relief has led to an increase in financial interest in the Islamic Republic among European businesses. The desire to enter that market may be reducing the level of international support for sanctions, thus making it even harder for them to be re-imposed in the near future.
But this is not to say that broader economic recovery is a foregone conclusion. The Washington Post points out the recent drop in oil prices could nullify recent gains from sanctions relief. But this will depend upon those prices remaining low over the long term. If they do, though, the Post also suggests that the renewed economic pressure may increase American leverage in future efforts to negotiate over Iran’s nuclear program.