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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

.@APDiplowriter takes on State Department spox on state sanctions against Iran

In case you haven't heard yet, the State Department sent letters to all 50 US State Governors that apparently demand that they suspend any remaining sanctions that the States have against Iran.

At the State Department briefing on Monday, the AP's Matt Lee took on State Department spokesman John Kirby regarding the letters.

Much of the rest of this comes from an email I received from The Israel Project's Omri Ceren.
More than two dozen U.S. states have sanctions against Iran. Different states established their sanctions for different combinations of reasons: nuclear work, terrorism, human rights violations, ballistic missiles, etc. For example the Illinois law cited Iran's "support [for] international terrorism," the California law cited terrorism plus "egregious violations of human rights," the New York law cited both of those plus "unconventional weapons and ballistic missiles," and so on. [a][b][c].
Earlier today Bloomberg View revealed that the Obama administration has sent letters to all 50 governors suggesting that states will need to review their Iran sanctions as a result of last summer's nuclear deal. The letters were prompted by paragraph 25 of the deal, which requires the federal government to "take appropriate steps" against state laws that may prevent "the implementation of the sanctions lifting as specified in this JCPOA."
Associated Press reporter Matt Lee raised several questions about the letters in today's press briefing with State Department spokesman Kirby. The full video is below (the exchange runs from about 4:30 to 9:10), but there are two specific questions which Kirby declined to definitively answer.
Let's go to the videotape. More after the video.

Here are those two questions:
1. Are states being asked to dismantle non-nuclear sanctions? - This question is potentially problematic for the administration. The JCPOA is supposed to be a nuclear agreement that provides relief from only nuclear sanctions in exchange for concessions on only nuclear work. But state-based sanctions are based on concerns related to both Iranian nuclear and non-nuclear behavior. If the administration pushes states to dismantle their sanctions, they'll be providing Iran with non-nuclear relief in excess of the deal, but if they don't push states to dismantle their sanctions, Iran will claim the U.S. is violating the deal's paragraph 25 requirements.
Kirby wouldn't provide a definitive answer. First he suggested that non-nuclear sanctions weren't being discussed, then Lee pushed for an explicit clarification, then Kirby added that states would get pushed on anything that conflicted with the JCPOA:
LEE: All right. Last one. Does it mention anything about sanctions that state and local authorities might have put in place against Iran for reasons other than non -- other than nuclear reasons?
KIRBY: Not that I’m aware of.
LEE: So it only applies to nuclear-related sanctions?
KIRBY: And the JCPOA specifically, yes.
2. Will the administration take states to court to try to force them to dismantle sanctions? - This question is also potentially problematic for the Obama administration. If it taked states to court, it might very well lose. The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 (CISADA) provides states with the authority to divest from Iran so long as any U.S. sanctions - not just nuclear sanctions - remain in place in response to Iranian behavior [d]. A few months ago Rep. DeSantis introduced legislation that would tighten up CISADA in order to further bolster states' sanctioning authority regarding Iran [e]. Last December both the Senate and the House reaffirmed bipartisan congressional support for state and local sanctions against Iran: H.Con.Res.100 (introduced by Rep. Roskam and cosponsored by Reps. Deutch, Lipinski, Pompeo, Sherman, and Zeldin) and S.Con.Res.26 (introduced by Sen. Kirk and cosponsored Sens. Manchin and Rubio) [f] [g].
This time Kirby simply punted:
LEE: Right. But so, would the administration be willing to take state and local governments to court to force their compliance with what it believes to be this...
KIRBY: I won't engage in a hypothetical.
Earlier today, the New York Times announced that it opposes a bill introduced by Senators Kirk and Rubio to try to 'fix' the Iran deal.  It may yet be an interesting summer on Capitol Hill.... The Obama administration is likely to agree with the Times.

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