In the wake of the Iranian regime’s harsh crackdown on nationwide protests, former Obama administration official wrote that the United States and Europe should “feel free to impose sanctions tied to human rights, terror and missiles notwithstanding” the nuclear deal upon Iran in an op-ed published Tuesday in Politico.
Dennis Ross, who served as a senior adviser to President Obama, in an article co-written with Richard Goldberg, the former Congressional staffer who developed many of the sanctions imposed on Iran, wrote that the nuclear deal “should not be interpreted as a blanket immunity for Iranian officials, banks and other government instrumentalities to expand their illicit activities.” They explained, “If such a person or entity is found to be connected to the Revolutionary Guard, terrorism, missile proliferation and human rights abuses, it most certainly can and should be subject to sanctions—even if sanctions for that person or entity were initially suspended by the JCPOA.”
By targeting members of the regime for non-nuclear violations, Ross and Goldberg argued, the administration “can uphold American values, defend our national security and keep our commitments to close allies.”
The authors cited the example of President Ronald Reagan, who, in the 1980s, managed to conclude an arms control agreement with the Soviet Union, even while referring to it as the “Evil Empire” and “building up America’s strategic deterrence, promoting regime change and applying economic pressure tied to the Soviet record on human rights.”
In a similar vein, Ross and Goldberg wrote that Trump could follow in Reagan’s footsteps while targeting Iran for its support of terror, human rights abuses and its continued development of ballistic missiles. In addition, they recommended that the administration work to end the sunset provisions of the nuclear deal, which would allow Iran to develop an industrial strength nuclear program when the nuclear deal expires. (Obama himself acknowledged that at the end of the deal, Iran’s breakout time—the time required for Iran to develop enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon—would be near zero.)
Ross and Goldberg map out how Trump could respond to the Iranian protests over economic conditions and still remain within the constraints of the nuclear deal.
In Iran today, people have been taking to the streets to denounce a regime that diverts the resources of its population toward terrorism, regional destabilization and proliferation while denying its citizens the basic values of freedom and democracy the West takes for granted. The Iranian people, it appears, have finally had enough of a financial system that launders their small but hard-earned wages to export terror, Shia militias and missiles to foreign lands. They’ve had enough of a regime that cares more about investing in the religious trusts—known in Farsi as bonyads—and the very same Revolutionary Guard now deployed against them.
The Iranian protesters are making a statement and we should not ignore it. The president would be well within his rights under the JCPOA and international law to follow Reagan’s example and answer them with action. Just as the Iranian regime feels free to spread its power and reach within the region notwithstanding the JCPOA, so should the United States and Europe feel free to impose sanctions tied to human rights, terror and missiles notwithstanding the same.
They also argued that the nuclear deal, like many arms control agreements throughout history, adopted “vague language” that can be interpreted different ways by the parties involved. The Trump administration should “try to convince the Europeans that non-nuclear sanctions are an acceptable and highly effective way of raising both the internal and external costs to the Iranian regime for its aggressive behavior.” While they acknowledge that Iran may claim that non-nuclear sanctions violate the deal, Iran “would be wrong” and its government would “bear the blame and consequences of exiting” the nuclear deal if it followed through on its threats in the wake of non-nuclear sanctions.
It is up to President Trump, Ross and Goldberg wrote, “to rise above partisanship in a manner that galvanizes the support of the free world.” In the face of Iranian oppression “silence is not an option, nor is keeping money flowing to regime officials, banks and government entities that suppress the basic rights of the Iranian people.”
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