- European governments, companies already willing to invest in Iran, undermining any chance of snapback in future
European governments are already showing a willingness to lift sanctions against Iran and invest in the country, before the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action has even been implemented. On Thursday, the Swiss government announced that it was lifting some sanctions. It stated that the sanctions lifting “can be seen as a sign of the support for the implementation of the nuclear agreement and its interest in deepening bilateral relations with Iran.” Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni led a business delegation to Tehran earlier this week. During the trip, Italian investment bank Mediobanca signed a memorandum of understanding with Iran’s Economy Ministry and the Central Bank of Iran, stating that the purpose was “to facilitate future economic and commercial relations between the two countries.” An Italian industrial firm, Finmeccanica, signed a €500 million contract with the Iranian firm Ghadir Investment Co. to develop a power plant – in 2013, the Treasury Department referred to the latter as “a major network of front companies controlled by Iran’s leadership.” The Wall Street Journal quotes Emanuele Ottolenghi, a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), as saying, “The plant deal, inked well before the [nuclear] deal even begins to be implemented, shows that U.S. sanctions can no longer deter global business from signing huge deals in Iran, even with the Supreme Leader’s business empire.”
Eli Lake, writing in Bloomberg View, reported on Thursday that Secretary of State John Kerry had written a letter to the British, German, and French foreign ministers to assure them that the Treasury Department would consult with European companies to let them know what investments would be permissible after UN sanctions on Iran are lifted. Juan Zarate, a terror finance expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said, “We are not putting out a statement saying we are on these guys like a hawk. The danger here is we are having to reassure markets and actors that it’s OK to do business with Iran without addressing the underlying threats and risks of Iranian behavior, such as support for terrorism.” Mark Dubowitz, executive director of FDD, asserted, “So the administration writes these letters to Europeans saying: ‘Don’t worry, you should feel free to go back into Iran. Indeed, you are critical to our economic strategy.’ And then gives this narrow interpretation of snapbacks and grandfathers to try and assuage Congress.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, the newly appointed national director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and a former special assistant to President Barack Obama, called on Congress to vote against the nuclear deal with Iran in a column for the Huffington Post Thursday.
Greenblatt stated that the nuclear deal not only gives Iran”a legal and legitimate pathway to become a nuclear threshold state in just over a decade,” but also gives it “standing as a normalized member of the international community,” despite Iran’s continued threats to destroy Israel, as well as its promotion of anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism.
Greenblatt went on:
Yes, the deal offers significant barriers in Iran’s nuclear path, for at least a decade that will keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, constraints not currently available through any other means. But, as noted by many experts, these limitations come to an end within 15 years in the best case. The potential loopholes in these constraints contribute to our unease. We admired the clarity of the reasoning offered by one of the Senate’s most respected, long-standing members, Sen. Chuck Schumer which crystallized those concerns.
In addition, Greenblatt pointed out that Iran has not changed its behavior, violating existing international sanctions without fear.
In exchange for pausing rather than permanently terminating its nuclear program, Iran will receive billions of dollars that, contrary to the arguments offered by administration officials, will almost certainly allow it to advance its agenda of bigotry, expansionism and support for terrorism. Indeed in recent days, we have seen commercial delegations flood into Tehran even as its leaders flout international sanctions by visiting foreign capitals; its judiciary represses religious minorities at home; and its inciteful rhetoric becomes even more sophisticated and strident. These are ominous signs.
Greenblatt urged Congress to vote against the current deal and demand a better one that will require Iran to change its behavior.
Without offering a robust set of measures to account for its vulnerabilities, the [deal] presents too great a risk to the U.S. and for our critical allies like Israel. Until the administration acts to address these concerns, and whether or not it is approved by Congress, we urge a new path forward that convinces Iran to eschew its agenda of bigotry and violence. We should come together around smart policy approaches to enable this outcome and rebuild the confidence of our allies and those around the world who rightly feel uneasy about living in a Middle East in which an emboldened Iran has new resources and new standing to empower it.
Greenblatt pointed to areas with broad support that need to be addressed: acting on Iran’s dismal human rights record, ensuring greater security cooperation with Israel to confront the Iranian threat, developnig a regional strategy for countering Iran’s increasingly aggressive behavior in the Middle East.
Greenblatt cited Washington Institute of Near East Policy executive director Robert Satloff’s argument that a Congressional vote against the JCPOA would not lead to war, and could in fact spur the administration to address the deficiencies in the current deal. Orde Kittrie of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies pointed out that there is a significant historical precedent for Congress to force changes in treaties. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D – N.Y.) and Rep. Brad Sherman (D – Calif.) have both voiced their opposition to the current deal and asked for a better deal.