Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters that the lifting of Iran sanctions is just “days away” and will occur “sooner rather than later.”
The sanctions relief, coming on the heels of the administration’s backing away from levying additional sanctions for Iranian missile tests, is expected to put up to $150 billion into the hands of one of the biggest state sponsors of terrorism in the world, according to the State Department.
Meanwhile, an effort by Republicans to give Congress more oversight over the nuclear deal with Iran will apparently fail because even Democrats opposed to the agreement don’t support it.
The quick pace of implementation comes despite harsh opposition from Capitol Hill, where critics have accused the administration of emboldening Iran by refusing to get tough in the face of aggressiveness from Tehran.
The administration has failed to adequately punish Iran for a pair of ballistic missile tests, lawmakers say, setting a potentially dangerous precedent.
Iran has also recently sent ships within 1,500 yards of a U.S. aircraft carrier traveling through international waters, and failed to protect Saudi Arabian diplomatic buildings from ransacking protesters outraged over the execution of a prominent Shiite cleric.
According to reports, the White House has backed away from an initial plan to levy new sanctions in retaliation for the missile tests, which are considered to be likely violations of United Nations sanctions.
“There was an intention — Congress had been notified or the indication was that this action was going to be taken,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said this week. “And then the decision was made, after pushback from Iran, not to go forward.”
Next week, the House will vote to tie the administration’s hands, preventing it from lifting sanctions on Iranian banks unless the U.S. can certify that those banks are not involved in financing terrorism or ballistic missiles.
“The question here is one of pushback, given the violation of the U.N. sanctions,” Royce said, during a markup of the bill on Thursday.
The legislation appears dead on arrival should it reach the White House, however, which has strongly opposed efforts to dismantle or hollow out the nuclear pact.
Congressional Democrats — even those who oppose the deal — have also refused to support the legislation.
“This measure really has no chance of becoming law,” the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), said during the markup this week. Engel is an opponent of the Iran deal, which he has said will only empower the rogue nation.
“Congress had an opportunity to vote on the deal and we lost,” he added. “I’m afraid we’re following the same path that we’re following with the Affordable Healthcare Act. Congress has spoken and it’s done.”
In addition to the legislation hitting the House floor next week, lawmakers are also eyeing other steps to punish Iran, in a sign that the pressure on the White House isn’t letting up any time soon.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers unveiled legislation this week to force the administration’s hand by calling for “expedited” sanctions in the face of Iran’s support of terrorism or use of ballistic missiles.
The president will deliver his State of the Union speech in less than two weeks where he is expected to tout his administration’s accomplishments. It will be an interesting summation, I’m sure.
But I’d like to revisit his claims in 5 or 10 years, when the fruits of his policies ripen and the Iranians are a regional hegemon, armed with the atomic bomb, and using that $150 billion to fund terrorist attacks against the U.S. and the west.