Can Obama be stopped from locking in Iran dealGerman intelligence reports last week that Iran has attempted to purchase nuclear technology in Germany since signing the JCPOA, the Obama administration appears determined to 'lock in' the Iran deal to prevent a future President from unraveling it.
All this was enough to prompt Angela Merkel to warn the Bundestag last week that Iran “continued to develop its rocket program in conflict with relevant provisions of the U.N. Security Council.” Don’t expect German sanctions, but at least the chancellor is living in the reality zone.
As for the Obama administration, not so much. For the past year it has developed a narrative—spoon-fed to the reporters and editorial writers Ben Rhodes publicly mocks as dopes and dupes—that Iran has met all its obligations under the deal, and now deserves extra cookies in the form of access to U.S. dollars, Boeing jets, U.S. purchases of Iranian heavy water (thereby subsidizing its nuclear program), and other concessions the administration last year promised Congress it would never grant.
“We still have sanctions on Iran for its violations of human rights, for its support for terrorism, and for its ballistic-missile program, and we will continue to enforce those sanctions vigorously,” Mr. Obama said in January. Whatever.
The administration is now weighing whether to support Iran’s membership in the World Trade Organization. That would neutralize a future president’s ability to impose sanctions on Iran, since WTO rules would allow Tehran to sue Washington for interfering with trade. The administration has also pushed the Financial Action Task Force, an international body that enforces anti-money-laundering standards, to ease pressure on Iran, which FATF did last month by suspending some restrictions for the next year.
And then there’s the Boeing deal to sell $17.6 billion worth of jets to Iran, which congressional Republicans led by Illinois’s Pete Roskam are trying to stop. Iran uses its civilian fleet to ferry weapons and fighters to its terrorist clients in Syria and Lebanon.
“The administration is trying to lock in the Iran deal and prevent a future president from doing anything, including pushing back on Iran’s malign behavior,” says the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Mark Dubowitz, who knows more about Iran sanctions than anyone in Washington. “Instead of curbing Iran’s worst behavior, the administration effectively facilitates it.”Last night, the House of Representatives voted to ban US aircraft sales (i.e. Boeing's) to Iran.
The first amendment [to the Appropriations Bill] prevents the Office of Foreign Assets Control from using funds to authorize the license necessary for the aircraft to be sold to Iran. The second one blocks loans from U.S. financial institutions for the purchase of planes that can be adapted for military use.
"Iran systemically uses commercial aircraft to spread death, destruction and mayhem, and we can do something about it," [Representative Peter] Roskam [R-Il] said on the House floor.
Airbus had reached an agreement in January to sell Tehran 118 planes. Because some of the aircraft components are made in the U.S., the deal was awaiting approval from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control.Of course, the bill still has to pass the Senate, which effectively approved the Iran deal last year in a party-line vote. And then it might have to override an Obama veto. And Obama doesn't need Congressional approval to approve Iran joining the WTO, although Congress can make it difficult for him according to Northwestern University law professor Eugene Kontorovich, whom I asked that question.
The day after the approval of the amendments, an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said step was "incompatible" with the country's nuclear deal with the U.S. Under the deal, America lifted the economic sanctions previously levied on Iran in return for Tehran curbing its nuclear ambitions.
“We have nothing to do with U.S. internal affairs,” Bahram Ghasemi was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency. “We consider the government of the United States to be responsible for implementing the country’s commitments” under the accord.
My bet is that sometime between November 8 and January 20, Obama will allow those jet sales to go ahead and announce US support for Iran's application to join the WTO. After all, it's part of his legacy.