With New Iran Sanctions Looming, GOP Senators Warn Europeans Not to Evade Them

By Patrick Goodenough | July 30, 2018 | 4:22am EDT
Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. (Screen capture: C-SPAN)

(CNSNews.com) – A group of Republican U.S. senators is advising European governments that any attempts to evade U.S. sanctions that were imposed against Iran under U.S. legislation that enjoyed broad bipartisan support could invite retaliatory action by the U.S. Congress.

The warning is contained in a letter, signed by ten senators led by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, addressed to the French, German and British ambassadors in Washington.

It comes just days before the Trump administration plans to restore the first set of sanctions against Tehran, a consequence of its withdrawal last May from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal.

The letter underlined that while some sanctions were imposed against Iran by executive order, others are the result of key pieces of legislation, passed over several years by overwhelming bipartisan majorities.

“These laws were passed by Congress, signed by President Obama, and will be enforced by President Trump,” it said. “Congressional leaders of both parties have taken a firm stance in support of them. They are not the policies of one party or one branch, but the considered and long-term policy of the United States as expressed by Congress.”

The senators warned that any attempt by evade or undermine those sanctions “could well prompt congressional action, in coordination with other elements of the U.S. government, to ensure their integrity.”

The other signatories are Republican Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Mike Lee (Utah), Tom Cotton (Ark.), David Perdue (Ga.), Ben Sasse (Neb.), Steve Daines (Mont.), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Mike Rounds (S.D.), and Dan Sullivan (Ala.).

Following a wind-down period, next Monday, August 6, is the date the administration plans to restore some sanctions, including those relating to U.S. dollar banknotes, precious metals, and the automotive sector.

That date will also see the revoking of various JCPOA-related authorizations, including one dealing with licenses for passenger aircraft and parts. Earlier, Boeing received a U.S. Treasury license to do business with Iran, and in late 2016 announced an agreement to sell 80 aircraft, worth $16.6 billion, to Iran Air.

On November 4, other U.S. sanctions against Iran are due to snap back. Those include measures targeting energy, petroleum-related transactions and transactions with the Central Bank of Iran (CBI). The administration says it wants to see exports of Iranian crude oil cut to “zero.”

Trump withdrew from the JCPOA after unsuccessful efforts by U.S. diplomats to work with European counterparts in a bid to “fix” what he saw as its major flaws.

France, Germany and Britain are three of the remaining five countries that are party to the JCPOA with Iran. They and the other two, Russia and China, all opposed Trump’s decision to exit the deal.

In their letter to European governments the senators said “creativity and dedication” would be needed in the months ahead to ensure differences over the JCPOA withdrawal would not damage the transatlantic alliance, “a cornerstone of global security.”

They urged the three allied countries not to seek to evade, but to comply with all U.S. sanctions, and stressed in particular the importance of abiding by those that resulted from four key pieces of legislation, which targeted a range of threatening Iranian conduct “including its ballistic missile program and its destabilizing regional activities.”

They are:

The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010

--The House passed CISADA in a 408-8 vote.

--The Senate passed CISADA in a 99-0 vote.

--Obama signed it into law in July 2010.

--It penalized companies that sell gasoline or other refined petroleum products to Iran.

--It targeted the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and those that do business with the IRGC, for its involvement in the nuclear program as well as terrorism and rights abuses.

--It shut the U.S. banking sector to any foreign banks that do business with the IRGC or aid the nuclear program.

Section 1245 of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2012

--The Senate passed the NDAA in a 100-0 vote.

--Obama signed it into law in December 2011.

--The section gave Iran’s oil customers a six-month deadline to stop buying Iranian oil, or face U.S. sanctions on their financial institutions that conduct energy transactions with the CBI.

--The CBI was targeted among other things for allegedly facilitating illicit activities and financial transfers to U.S.-designated entities including the IRGC and Hezbollah.

--The Obama administration did not initially support targeting the bank, arguing that doing so would push up oil prices. Two months after signing the NDAA, however, Obama in an executive order announced sanctions including restrictions on the CBI.

The Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012

--The House passed the legislation in a 408-8 vote.

--Obama signed it into law in August 2012.

--The measure imposed sanctions in response to support for the nuclear program, human rights abuses and international terrorism, closing loopholes in earlier legislation and providing additional penalties for those helping Iran’s gas, oil, financial and shipping sectors.

The Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012 (in the NDAA for FY 2013)

--The Senate passed the measure in a 94-0 vote, despite White House opposition.

--The Senate passed the NDAA in a 98-0 vote.

--Obama signed the NDAA into law in January 2013.

--The measure targeted the energy, shipping and shipbuilding sectors, and added to existing penalties aimed at Iran’s energy and financial sectors.

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