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Republican Alternative to S. 1982: Considerations on the Iran Sanctions Provisions

February 26, 2014

This amendment adds to S. 1982 the Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act (S. 1881), which carries out President Obama’s stated policy on Iran. He said in the State of the Union Address that if Iran does not “seize this opportunity, then [he would] be the first to call for more sanctions.” This bill provides new sanctions authority, but holds that authority in abeyance until the expiration of the interim deal, thereby giving Iran a chance to seize this diplomatic opportunity and providing consequences if it does not.

Findings/Sense of Congress

  • The bill opens by making a collection of findings and expressing the position of Congress, namely that Iran must not be allowed to maintain nuclear weapon capabilities, and all instruments of power should remain on the table to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapon capabilities.
  • It further states Iran does not have a right to enrichment and reprocessing capabilities and technologies under the NPT.
  • It further states the United States should continue to impose sanctions on Iran for its continuing sponsorship of terrorism, ongoing abuses of human rights, and support of Syria’s Assad.
  • It further expresses the position that sanctions would be imposed if Iran violates any interim or final agreement regarding its nuclear program, a final agreement is not reached in a discernible time frame, or Iran breaches other conditions described in the act.

Additional Sanctions Authority Triggered by Iranian Deception or Intransigence

  • The next part, which would be Title I of the bill, expands sanctions authority, which would only go into effect for these reasons. It requires a significant reduction in the import of all petroleum productions from Iran. It further requires countries, in order to avoid sanctions, to reduce their purchase of such products by 30 percent within one year and reduce their purchases to de minimis levels within two years.
  • This title goes on to expand sanctions authority in Iran’s engineering, mining, and construction sectors; and imposes further sanctions with respect to foreign exchange transactions.
  • It also expands sanctions with respect to people involved in human rights abuses and those enabling Iran to evade sanctions.

Timeline and Conditions Under Which Additional Sanctions Authority Goes Into Effect

  • Title III of the bill goes on to provide the conditions under which this increased sanctions authority would go into effect. First and foremost, it authorizes the President to suspend for 180 days this additional sanctions authority.
  • To suspend sanctions, the President must certify every 30 days, among other things: Iran is complying with the interim agreement; is engaged in good-faith negotiations toward a final agreement; has not supported or otherwise carried out an act of terrorism against the United States or U.S. persons or property; has not conducted any tests for ballistic missiles with a range exceeding 500km; and the United States is working toward a final agreement that will dismantle Iran’s illicit nuclear infrastructure.
  • After this 180-day period has passed, the President may renew the suspension of sanctions for two additional periods of not more than 30 days each if the President continues to make this previously-described certification, as well as that a final agreement to fully and verifiably terminate Iran’s illicit nuclear program and related weaponization activities is imminent; and that Iran will dismantle its nuclear infrastructure pursuant to such an agreement.
  • This would bring the potential total to 240 days. If a final agreement is still not reached, any suspended sanctions are to be reinstated, but the President may waive their reinstatement for two additional 30-day periods, bringing the period for which the president may suspend this additional sanctions authority to 300 days (the initial 180-day period, two additional 30-day periods if an agreement is imminent, followed by two more 30-day periods upon the same certification).
  • For the President to suspend the reinstatement of sanctions, he must provide a detailed report of the status of negotiations with Iran on a final agreement.
  • This title goes on to provide that any sanctions suspended shall be immediately reinstated if the President is unable or otherwise chooses not to make the required certifications, namely that Iran breaches its commitments under the interim agreement, or that a final agreement is not reached in the time period provided.

Final Agreement Parameters

  • The bill then goes on to authorize the President to suspend for a one-year period the application of sanctions if the President certifies a final agreement has been reached.
  • The bill provides what the elements of such a final agreement are to be, namely that the agreement verifiably:
    • dismantles Iran’s illicit nuclear infrastructure, including enrichment and reprocessing capabilities and facilities, the heavy water reactor and production plant at Arak, and any nuclear weapon components and technology, thereby eliminating both uranium and plutonium pathways to a nuclear weapon;
    • brings Iran into compliance with all U.N. Security Council resolutions related to Iran’s nuclear program;
    • resolves all issues of past and present concern with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), including possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program;
    • permits continuous on-site inspection, verification, and monitoring of all suspect facilities in Iran, including installation and use of any compliance verification equipment requested by the IAEA; and
    • requires Iran’s full implementation of and compliance with IAEA’s Safeguards Agreement, ratification and implementation of the Additional Protocol, and implementation of verification measures at Iran’s centrifuge manufacturing facilities and Iran’s uranium mines and mills. 
  • The President is then further authorized to renew such a one-year suspension of sanctions for additional one-year periods if the President certifies Iran is implementing and complying with the final agreement.

Congressional Review

  • The bill provides for Congress to review the final agreement under expedited procedures. If Congress enacts a Joint Resolution of Disapproval of the final agreement, then any sanctions suspended by the President under this bill must be reimposed.
  • The President must still make certain certifications in order to suspend the imposition of sanctions under this bill even if Congress does not so act.

Background

  • This bill carries out President Obama’s stated policy on Iran. President Obama, however, threatened to veto any Iran sanctions bill in the State of the Union Address, the only veto threat in the entire speech.
  • On November 23, 2013, President Obama went on national television to announce an interim agreement had been reached with Iran regarding its nuclear program. It turns out that agreement actually really wasn’t reached until January 20, 2014, when a State Department spokesman announced it had gone into effect.