USA*Engage and NFTC Urge Congress to Rethink Unilateral Iran Sanctions Legislation

Thursday, 7 May 2009
USA*Engage and NFTC Urge Congress to Rethink
Unilateral Iran Sanctions Legislation

Associations Caution Proposed Bill Could Undermine U.S. and Multilateral Diplomacy

Washington, D.C. – USA*Engage and the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) today urged Members of Congress to reevaluate new U.S. unilateral sanctions against Iran as proposed in the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act (IRPSA) – H.R. 2194/S. 908. The associations cautioned that imposing additional unilateral sanctions on Iran at a time when the Administration is mapping out its diplomatic strategy, would be counterproductive to those efforts and ineffective in influencing the Iranian regime to change its behavior.
“While the legislation would attempt to restrict Iran’s access to petroleum products as a way of putting pressure on the current regime to cease its nuclear development, it will most probably have the opposite effect,” said Richard Sawaya, Director of USA*Engage. “As the history of existing sanctions on Iran demonstrates, IRPSA would strengthen those in Iran’s government who oppose negotiations with the U.S. and, if at all successful, turn popular sentiment in Iran against engagement. At this time in particular, additional sanctions will constrain the Administration’s ability to conduct foreign policy and jeopardize common cause with our allies.”
The legislation would require that any foreign entity selling refined petroleum to Iran or otherwise enhancing Iran’s ability to import refined petroleum, including financing, brokering, underwriting or providing ships for such activity, be barred from doing business in the United States. IRPSA would also apply to any entity that provides goods or services that enhance Iran’s ability to maintain or expand its domestic production of refined petroleum. 
“The Administration intends to engage Iran diplomatically and has made overtures in line with that approach,” said NFTC President and USA*Engage Co-Chair Bill Reinsch. “New unilateral sanctions would undermine that strategy and send the message to both Iran and our allies that the United States is not committed to diplomacy.”
Last Friday, USA*Engage and the NFTC joined other associations and non-governmental organizations in sending a letter to all Members of Congress, voicing opposition to the proposed legislation. The groups argued that for the past 30 years, U.S. policy toward Iran has been focused “exclusively on sanctions, threats and isolation,” and “as a result, we now face a more powerful and problematic Iran than ever before.” They wrote, “Building support for new sanctions now – before diplomacy has been given enough time to succeed – will suggest that America is not serious about engagement and will actually make negotiations less likely to take place.”