Iran expressed some disappointment at the US Senate vote that extended American sanctions on that country for 10 years. But even the histrionic Iranians knew better than to make a big deal of the milquetoast strictures placed on individuals and companies in Iran. The sanctions are aimed at the leadership of the Revolutionary Guards who also happen to own lucrative businesses. In truth, the sanctions regime is but a pinprick that is more an annoyance for the Iranians than a serious economic hit.
The Senate vote was 99-0 and President Obama has indicated he will reluctantly sign the legislation.
Iran has vowed to retaliate against the ISA extension, passed unanimously on Thursday, saying it violated last year’s agreement with six major powers to curb its nuclear program in return for lifting of international financial sanctions.
“To the world community, the extension of sanctions against Iran shows the unreliability of the American government,” state broadcaster IRIB quoted Zarif as saying on arriving in India for an official visit. “America is acting against its commitment.”
U.S. officials said the ISA renewal would not infringe the nuclear agreement. U.S. lawmakers have also said the ISA extension would make it easier for sanctions to be quickly reimposed if Iran contravened the nuclear deal..
But Iran’s nuclear energy chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, who played a central role in reaching the nuclear deal, described the extension as a “clear violation” if implemented.
The diplomatic thaw between Washington and Tehran over the past two years looks in jeopardy with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump taking office next month. He said during his election campaign that he would scrap the nuclear agreement.
The U.S. Senate vote was a blow to pragmatist Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who engineered the diplomatic opening to the West that led to the nuclear deal.
Why do normally sane, intelligent people refer to Rouhani as a “pragmatist”? In order to be allowed to run for president (the candidates are chosen by the powerful Guardian Council), the candidate must be absolutely and totally reliable on questions like the survival of the state of Israel, women’s rights, press freedom – the exact same positions as those taken by “extremists.” The president has no independence. Any “diplomatic opening” was not engineered by Rouhani, but by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.
Last month, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that the extension would be viewed in Tehran as a breach of the nuclear accord and threatened retaliation.
Behrouz Nemati, spokesman for parliament’s presiding board, was quoted by state television on Saturday as saying MPs would introduce a measure on Sunday demanding the government “return to initial (nuclear) enrichment conditions” before the deal.
Another group of lawmakers plan to introduce a bill on Sunday to ban “the purchase of U.S. consumer goods including animal and agricultural products”, IRIB reported.
Such a bill could also endanger deals including U.S. planemaker Boeing’s tentative accord to sell passenger jets to Iran, upgrading a fleet long deteriorating due to sanctions.
Khamenei and his hardline loyalists have criticized the deal and blamed Rouhani for its failure to deliver swift improvements in living standards since sanctions were lifted in January.
Is Rouhani being set up to take the fall for the miserable economy? It certainly looks that way. Rouhani ran interference for Khamenei and the other radicals who trashed the deal before it was even finished. It appears now that Rouhani compounded his problem by over promising the windfall from sanctions relief.
But there’s no chance Iran will scuttle the accord until after Obama leaves office. What actions a President Trump will take to either strengthen the deal or blow it up are unknown.