Sens. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) have put forward an amendment to the defense budget that would extend congressional sanctions against the Iran regime for 10 additional years. The amendment is aimed at extending the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996, currently set to expire at the end of 2016, to the end of 2026.
The amendment is an important step in resetting the expectations associated with the Iran regime’s nuclear weapons program because it links it to the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles and human rights abuses; a significant step towards properly addressing the central issues with the regime’s conduct towards the world.
The regime’s chief cheerleaders, the National Iranian American Council, predictably were quick to denounce the legislation, warning that passage of the bill would derail ongoing negotiations. The NIAC’s statement was noteworthy for a few things, namely that it placed the burden of completion of a deal on the U.S. and not the regime.
“There are legitimate questions about whether the U.S. will be able to deliver on the terms for sanctions relief under a nuclear deal, and the passage of this amendment would give credence to those concerns,” the NIAC statement said.
It is a remarkable sentence because it firmly ignores the chief obstacle to any agreement between the West and Iran, which is Iran’s historic inability to live up to any of its international agreements. As recently as last month, Iran has steadfastly refused to answer outstanding questions from the International Atomic Energy Agency about the “possible military dimensions” of its nuclear program.
On top of that omission are repeated comments by Iran’s top mullah, Ali Khamenei, who has reiterated publicly his opposition to allowing access to any Iranian military facility or Iranian nuclear scientists by international inspectors.
This follows continued denials by Iran that it is involved in proxy wars being waged in Syria and Yemen, not to mention its control of Shiite militias in Iraq that are now being accused of reprisal sectarian killings against Sunni Muslim villagers, all of which points to a disturbing and repeated pattern of deception, denial and distrust.
The action by Senators Kirk and Menendez comes after passage of legislation signed by President Obama and over the vigorous objections of NIAC authorizing congressional review of any nuclear agreement reached with Iran.
This latest bill from Kirk and Menendez addresses a glaring hole in current negotiations, which is the failure of negotiators to hold Iran’s human rights conduct accountable, as well as including the regime’s capacity to deliver a nuclear weapon well outside their neighborhood and threaten Europe and Asia.
The NIAC and the rest of the Iran lobby have fought hard to keep these things out of negotiations because they know full well their inclusion would almost certainly doom Iran’s hopes of securing a deal and lift economic sanctions and flood the regime with billions in new cash and investment.
The proposed amendment is not a deal breaker for the West as much as it is a safety clause assuring the West does not deliver a bad deal that could come back to haunt them.
By Michael Tomlinson