Out front of Obama, Clinton calls for 'clean' renewal of key Iran sanctions law

Advocates for renewal say that the sanctions law would allow any future administration to snap back punishments on Iran should it violate the recent landmark nuclear deal.

September 1, 2016 23:45
3 minute read.
Hillary Clinton

US Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers the keynote address at the Brookings Institution Saban Forum at the Willard Hotel in Washington December 6, 2015. . (photo credit: REUTERS)

WASHINGTON -- Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton supports renewal of the Iran Sanctions Act, a top priority of Israel advocacy groups in Washington, a campaign aide told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

Originally passed in 1996, The Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) is set to expire in December without reauthorization. The Obama administration has not yet called on Congress either to extend the law or allow it to expire.

Advocates for reauthorization say that the ISA is the foundation of US sanctions law that would allow any future administration to snap back punishments on Iran should it violate a landmark nuclear deal reached between Tehran and world powers last year. Skeptics say its renewal will irk Iran, and possibly risk the accord itself, as Tehran may interpret its extension as  the passage of new sanctions legislation in breach of the agreement.

"Hillary Clinton supports a clean reauthorization of the Iran Sanctions Act and believes Congress should get this done in short order when they return from recess," said Jesse Lehrich, a spokesman for the Clinton campaign. "She has always made clear that while the historic deal passed last year represents a crucial step forward toward preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, we must proceed with a 'distrust and verify' approach."

"Maintaining the infrastructure to immediately snap back sanctions if Iran violates the terms of the deal is essential," Lehrich added. "Congress should put partisanship aside and send the president a clean ISA reauthorization bill for his signature."

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee has prioritized renewal of the ISA above all else, even drawing ire from Republicans for the singularity of its focus.

Much of the act has been waived under the nuclear agreement, which was designed to cap Iran's nuclear program for a finite period in exchange for international sanctions relief. Clinton, if elected, would ostensibly continue issuing these waivers, but seeks to have the ISA on the books in reserve should Iran break the pact.

Speaking with The Post last month, House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Eliot Engel said he expects US President Barack Obama to support renewal, as well.

"Yes, I do expect it," Engel (D-New York) said. "I've already talked to the president about it, and he's given me every indication that he supports it."

But the Obama administration has not yet gone on record in support of ISA renewal, and a senior administration official responded to Engel's remark by declining to comment on the president's private discussions.

"What we've said is that it is not necessary to extend the Iran Sanctions Act at this time," the official continued. "The extension of ISA does not affect our ability to continue to issue sanctions designations when warranted, as we have ample authorities to target ballistic missile-related actors, as well as activity related to human rights violations, malicious cyber activity, and other activity of concern."

"We remain committed to working with Congress, however, and are willing to discuss how to further foreign policy priorities in a manner that does not jeopardize JCPOA implementation," the official added.

Lehrich added that, should she be elected president, Clinton will "continue to enforce, and strengthen as necessary, sanctions on Iran's support for terrorism, human rights abuses, and ballistic missile activity."

Senate Democratic leadership has already called for renewal of the law, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and his assumed successor, Chuck Schumer of New York.

Clinton has supported the nuclear agreement, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, ever since it was reached on July 14, 2015. The deal put a "lid" on Iran's nuclear work, she says, "without firing a shot."

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