The Case for Stronger Iran Sanctions During Times of Diplomacy

By Gordon Haas

For the past seven years, Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ has been advocating for strong sanctions against Iran to stop it from enriching uranium and pursuing nuclear weapons. These sanctions were successfully passed in 2010 with great leadership from New Jersey’s own Senator Menendez. Since that time additional sanctions to close loopholes were put in place in the U.S. and by the international community.

These sanctions are making a difference. Iran is starting to feel the heat. Why then, does Secretary of State Kerry want to lessen the sanctions and use them as a bargaining chip prior to the Iranians making any changes to its nuclear enrichment program? Just last week no deal was made at the negotiating table. This turn of events is of great concern to the Community Relations Committee (CRC) of Greater MetroWest NJ and to the Jewish community overall.
Don’t get me wrong, the Jewish community strongly supports a diplomatic resolution to this situation.

With more negotiations on the horizon between Iran and the P5+1 (the group of six world powers which in 2006 joined the diplomatic efforts with Iran in regard to its nuclear program), the CRC is greatly concerned about the delay in moving the Iran Nuclear Prevention Act forward. It is imperative to strengthen sanctions prior to the next round of negotiations. This bill was passed in the House in the spring and is currently stuck in the Banking Committee. We believe this bill must move through the Senate committees to the Floor for an immediate vote prior to November 20, 2013, when the next round of negotiations are scheduled to begin. However, the Administration may delay this from happening.

What You Can Do

The most urgent step is to contact Tim Johnson, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, and Mike Crapo, its ranking member, and urge them to pass the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act out of committee. To reach them you can call the call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to their offices.

Let them know that only through stiff and unyielding sanctions, combined with strategic use of military assets and prudent intelligence operations, can Iran be compelled to stop threatening the security of the U.S., Israel, and the entire Middle East. Appeasement through sanctions relief, absent the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program, would have long-term disastrous repercussions.

Senator Menendez, who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been leading the charge to pass the sanctions. Feel free to contact him to thank him for his tenacity and commitment to this concern. He can be reached at (202) 224-4744.


For the past couple of years, P5+1 negotiations with the Iranians have resulted in no deal. When Iran comes to the negotiating table, it succeeds in continuing to divert the attention of the international community from the dangers its nuclear program presents to the world. Yet we should not be blind to the fact that they still have not made any commitments and continue to accelerate its uranium enrichment with more sophisticated centrifuges, and moves its facilities deeper underground.

We believe that now is the moment for increased economic pressure to be combined with diplomatic engagement as the successful ingredient for truly impactful negotiations.  We also believe that a carrot and stick approach to negotiations is necessary --  the power represented by the stick is the sole leverage in those negotiations and the diminution of which would be a sign of weakness to be exploited. Iran should have no doubt that they have one choice — nuclear power or economic chaos.

There is also something else we can do. According to our partners at United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), we must work with legislators to coordinate with the White House to provide details on what are the acceptable parameters of a deal. According to UANI, Congress should take up debate on the five principles to guide the U.S. position in the P5+1 nuclear negotiation. They are as follows:

1. The objective of a nuclear agreement is to prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons by limiting Iran's ability to produce fissile material under strong international inspections. A comprehensive agreement should require Iran to comply with UN Security Council Resolutions 1696 and 1737, requiring Iran to suspend enrichment and reprocessing-related activities until "confidence is restored in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program..." The period of confidence building is one that we believe must last several years. Iran must also fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to resolve questions about its nuclear activities.
2. The sanctions framework has been carefully assembled over many years, and no sanctions rollback should take place until Iran agrees to a comprehensive nuclear agreement with measurable milestones.
3. A comprehensive nuclear agreement is by far the preferred outcome. If prior to a final agreement on a comprehensive nuclear accord the U.S., its allies, and Iran agree to an interim agreement that substantially limits Iran's current nuclear program, the U.S. and its allies may consider specific and individual transactional waivers of sanctioned/prohibited activity. Any such interim agreement should include a time limit on the final negotiation of a comprehensive agreement and automatic re-imposition of sanctions on such transactions if one is not reached within that time.
4. Iran's new President should have 100 days from his election to take substantial and concrete actions to resolve concerns about Iran's nuclear program. In the absence of such action, the U.S. and its allies should move to impose new sanctions to be implemented after January 1, 2014. Subsequently, Iran should face ever increasing and new sanctions as diplomacy continues.
5. If Iran complies with its international obligations and restores confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear program, including the suspension of its enrichment and reprocessing-related activities for a substantial period (i.e. several years), the U.S. and its allies can consider the scale and scope of its nuclear program, including whether Iran is allowed to resume limited enrichment for peaceful purposes.

We believe that sanctions are making a difference, but they must continue to be enhanced if they are to have the desired impact on the regime. It is time to urge the U.S. Senate to expeditiously pass legislation to strengthen the sanctions against Iran. Given the historic practice of Iran extending negotiations to buy time and allow further nuclear development, Iran should have a "time-limited" opportunity to reach a nuclear accord without facing additional sanctions, even as diplomatic efforts continue.


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