GOP proposal triggers nuclear sanctions on Iran for missile work

Reimposing sanctions on Iran would effectively withdraw the US from the nuclear deal. But doing so for behavior not addressed in the deal itself may not break the deal entirely.

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October 20, 2017 22:59
2 minute read.
GOP proposal triggers nuclear sanctions on Iran for missile work

US PRESIDENT Donald Trump has decertified the Iran deal.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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NEW YORK — Republican senators are preparing legislation that would automatically trigger the reimposition of nuclear sanctions back on Iran if it manufactures, deploys or tests warhead-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles – a subject not addressed in the Iran nuclear deal, US media reported on Friday.

The legislative language – a draft of which was first seen by the Associated Press, and confirmed as authentic by The Jerusalem Post – effectively applies new terms onto the international nuclear pact. It's passage through Congress would unnerve US allies in Europe and test Iran, which says it will not allow the agreement to be renegotiated or reinterpreted.

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Reimposing sanctions on Iran would effectively withdraw the US from the nuclear deal. But doing so for behavior not addressed in the deal itself may not break the deal entirely, as Iran and the five other parties to the agreement – Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany – say they plan on sticking with it unless the agreement as it was negotiated has been breached.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) does not address Iran's ICBM program, which Tehran successfully argued throughout two years of negotiations are a conventional weapons system. ICBMs are designed to carry nuclear payloads, and are considered by nuclear states to be the critical delivery system for atomic bombs.

North Korea, for example, has been a nuclear state for roughly a decade. But it is just now seeking to "complete" its nuclear program, according to its leadership, by perfecting its ICBM capability.

The UN Security Council has called on Iran to cease its ICBM program, but Tehran has vowed to accelerate it. The Republican legislation – opposed out of the gate by a united Democratic caucus – will force a debate on whether these two threats are indeed conflated.

The legislation would also snap sanctions back on Iran if it works to "clandestinely acquire nuclear material" or to acquire equipment intended to produce nuclear material "from outside of Iran."

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The JCPOA strictly focused on Iran's domestic nuclear program and set up a "procurement channel" for Iran to acquire parts and equipment for its civilian use. But the deal does not address in detail the potential of a satellite program hosted by or organized in tandem with other nations.

The legislation would technically amend the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, intended to give Congress powers to oversee implementation of the nuclear accord. The new language was drafted by Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker of Tennessee and Tom Cotton of Arkansas in consultation with the White House.

US President Donald Trump supports the Corker-Cotton initiative, and has threatened to unilaterally "terminate" the nuclear deal if Congress fails to act. The president may withdraw the US from the deal at any time.


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