NFTC and USA*Engage Statement Opposing Senate Banking Committee?s Vote on Iran Sanctions

Thursday, 2 February 2012
Washington, DC – The National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) and USA*Engage today released the following statement in response to the U.S. Senate Banking Committee's vote to approve the Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Human Rights Act of 2012, which would impose additional U.S. unilateral sanctions on Iran.

"Like clockwork, the Senate Banking Committee today reported legislation, the Iran Sanctions Accountability and Human Rights Act of 2012, that yet again would impose further unilateral and extraterritorial sanctions on entities with economic ties to Iran," said Bill Reinsch, President of the NFTC and Co-Chair of USA*Engage. "Despite the demonstrable failure of sanctions to achieve their stated goal and the adverse consequences they carry for ordinary Iranians, Congress persists in limiting the Administration's ability to engage in frank negotiations with Iran unburdened by the accumulated dead weight of sanctions on autopilot."

Reinsch continued, "For example, a provision in the bill sanctions the sale of communications technologies that the Iranian government could use to abuse the human rights of the citizenry; yet another provision calls for the U.S. Treasury to expedite the licensing of the same communications technologies for the use of Iranians to freely and safely communicate internally and globally. Perhaps it is time to let negotiations take place without measures that effectively prevent diplomatic progress."

At best, if economic sanctions are truly multilateral and clearly but one part of a concerted diplomatic offensive, they may be a useful tool in changing the calculations of a sovereign government regarding such a strategic decision as the acquisition of nuclear weapons. It is hard to see, on the other hand, how a virtual embargo aimed at bringing a nation's economy to ruin will change such calculations for the better.

"To date, the Administration has been able to make sanctions a multilateral tactic. Congressional insistence on more crippling sanctions enshrined into law, coupled with their bureaucratic implementation, in reality constitute an obstacle to strategic negotiation free of self-defeating preconditions," said USA*Engage Director Richard Sawaya. "Once enshrined in law, what are in fact only tactics take on lives of their own, immune to the complex realities that Iran's history and position in the region entail. The first casualty is what is always in short supply – intelligence. We recommend that Congress adopt new watchwords – enough already."