Shining a Spotlight on Iran
On October 13, 2017, President Trump notified Congress that he was “decertifying” the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) reached between the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) and Iran in July 2015. But he stopped short of killing the deal, which would have caused economic sanctions on Iran to automatically “snap back” into place.
Instead, the immediate consequence of the president’s announcement is to kick the issue back to Congress, giving it 60 days to use a special expedited process to reimpose sanctions suspended by the nuclear deal.
Most world leaders reacted negatively and called on Congress to consider the security implications for the U.S. and its allies before taking any steps that might undermine the JCPOA.
However proponents of resuming sanctions argue that even countries that appear to reject the U.S. administration’s strategy will most likely reconsider when they realize that they must choose between doing business with Iran (with a GDP of $412.2 billion) or with the U.S. ($18.57 trillion). On the other hand, skeptics point out that such tactics might backfire, as foreign countries might take measures to protect their companies against U.S. sanctions, and/or initiate counter-measures to penalize U.S. companies.
AJC opposed the JCPOA because it failed to address: (a) Iran’s aggressive and menacing development of ballistic missiles; (b) the JCPOA’s sunset clause, which gives Iran a pathway to a nuclear bomb by 2030, if not sooner; and (c) the fact that military sites, likely venues for nuclear-related research, are not covered in the inspection regime. These shortcomings persist.
And while supporters of the JCPOA argued that the agreement would moderate Iranian behavior, they have been proven wrong: Iran has become still more emboldened in its determination to destabilize the region.
At the same time, however, AJC considers it absolutely essential for the Administration, Congress, and our key allies in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia to work as collaboratively as possible on the Iran threat.
The Iranian regime is an egregious violator of human rights, denying freedom of religion, arbitrarily arresting, detaining, abusing, and torturing members of religious minorities, political activists, human rights advocates, and journalists. Furthermore, Iran is a source, transit point, and destination country for sex trafficking and forced labor. Notably, Iran coerces Afghan refugees to fight in Syria, deporting those who refuse, and supports militias in Iraq that recruit and use child soldiers.
AJC, going back more than 20 years, has made opposition to Iranian aggression and regional destabilization a priority issue for advocacy and research. AJC is convinced that the multiple Iranian threats to Israel, the Middle East, and global security—now aggravated by Tehran’s nuclear ambitions—must be stopped.
Post-decertification, AJC is calling on Congress, in a bipartisan manner, and the international community to seize the opportunity to examine the deficiencies of the JCPOA. This should be done in the form an amended agreement that lifts “sunset” provisions on enrichment capabilities and stockpiles, and introduces necessary restrictions on missile development—or, in a parallel undertaking, to confront these and other elements of Iran’s destabilizing behavior.
AJC does not advocate unraveling the JCPOA, adopting a go-it-alone U.S. approach that would leave Washington, rather than Tehran, isolated in the international arena. We strongly encourage the U.S. and allied governments to work together to fashion a policy that strengthens and extends the JCPOA’s prohibition on Iran attaining military nuclear capability, imposes powerful sanctions on the regime’s ballistic missile program, and punishes Iranian support for terror and subversion.
On Capitol Hill, AJC has succeeded in garnering support for a number of measures designed to address the JCPOA’s shortcomings and omissions, including:
- Facilitating the “snap-back” of sanctions should Iran violate the JCPOA. AJC worked for passage of the 2016 Iran Sanctions Extension Act, which allows for sanctions on Iran’s energy sector and entities that help Iran obtain advanced weaponry and weapons of mass destruction.
- Targeting Iran’s ballistic missiles program. AJC worked for passage of the Iran Ballistic Missiles and International Sanctions Enforcement Act, which levies targeted sanctions and limits the transfer of conventional weapons to and from Iran.
- Addressing Iranian support for terror, particularly through its proxy Hezbollah. AJC worked for passage of: (a) the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act, which became law in December 2015; (b) the 2017 Hezbollah International Financial Prevention Amendments Act, which levies new sanctions on financial institutions and foreign governments that support Hezbollah and affiliated organizations; and (c) the 2017 Sanctioning Hezbollah’s Illicit Use of Civilians as Defenseless Shields Act, which imposes sanctions on Hezbollah for intentionally positioning launch facilities, weapon stockpiles, and fighters near mosques, hospitals, homes, and schools, in clear violation of international law.
AJC strongly supported a 2017 resolution calling on the European Union to fully designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, empowering European governments to take stronger steps to prevent the group from organizing and fundraising within EU borders.
AJC’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights (JBI) has urged the UN General Assembly and member-states of the UN Human Rights Council to continue strong support for the resolutions condemning the human rights situation in Iran. These resolutions created and maintain the mandate for the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, an independent expert who has provided periodic reports to the UN shedding light on the persistent, abhorrent human rights practices in the country.