The Trump administration's decision to issue sanctions waivers today, as required by the nuclear deal with Iran, is a welcome and necessary step to ensure that the United States meets its commitments under the agreement. Given that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson certified to Congress in April that Iran is complying with its commitments under the deal, it is only logical for Washington to continue to waive sanctions.
As the Trump administration continues its Iran policy review, it is critical to remember that implementing the nuclear deal blocks Iran’s pathways to nuclear weapons and puts in place intrusive monitoring and verification. The deal was also endorsed by the UN Security Council, and is supported by Washington’s negotiating partners (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom). Given the successful implementation and multilateral support for the agreement, as long as Iran abides by its commitments, it is in the best interest of U.S. national security to continue to meet its obligations under the deal and refrain from steps that undermine the agreement.
Without question, Iran is continuing activities, such as ballistic missile development and arms transfers, that are unhelpful and contrary to the spirit of UN Security Council restrictions. But as the Trump administration and Congress consider options for pushing back against Iran in these areas, preserving the nuclear deal must remain a priority. The current sanctions bill in the Senate, S.722, contains sections that, if passed, risk undermining the agreement. A number of former U.S. officials that worked closely on the deal, including lead negotiator Wendy Sherman, have spoken out against the bill for those reasons.
As Congress and the Trump administration consider the future of U.S. policy toward Tehran, they should carefully and fully consider the impact on the Iran nuclear deal and the consequences of undermining the accord. Without the continued and effective implementation of the deal, Iran’s nuclear program would be subject to less monitoring and far fewer restraints, posing a proliferation risk and threatening international security.