With an overwhelming majority, the House of Representatives re-authorized the Iran Sanctions Act for an additional ten years. As reported in foreignaffairs, Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ed Royce referred to the necessity of this vote, relating to it as a “critical tool” and a “statutory foundation of the Iran sanctions regime”. He also commented that the absence of this act would be “jeopardizing America’s national security”.
This piece of legislation now awaits the Presidential signature. The president in office is President Obama, and he can veto it if he so chooses.
Initially it was assumed by rollcall and others that the White House would support a “clean sanctions renewal”. This is just that. Although before the bill was passed White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was not prepared to commit whether the President would sign or not, he did admit that at that point in time there was no threat of a veto, and that the sanctions authority had been used to impose costs on Iran for their support for terrorism, their violation of human rights and a “wide range of concerns we have with Iran’s behavior”. All valid as ever. So it would seem that there is ample reason for Obama to approve.
Yet, with the election of Trump as President, unwisely, political overtures were attached to the bill. Chairman Royce added “strategical implications” to the bill, stating the need for “reevaluating the dangerous track that US policy toward Iran has been on”. The Wall Street Journal in its article stressed “the House vote to renew the act signals wide agreement on a hardline approach to Iran despite President Obama’s nuclear diplomacy”. As if the bill represents a hard line approach different from Obama’s. But hey, the sanctions bill was valid while Obama was President, and it was given to believe that the same Obama would support a “clean extension”. After all, this is a bi-partisan issue transcending petty interests.
Mixed in to all of this are the threats coming out from Iran. Iran threatened the US and even set an ultimatum. Various media outlets reported on the Iranian threats, among them wsj, voanews, politico, reuters and even Tehrantimes.
This leads us to Obama’s dilemma. On the one hand, he sees the Iran nuclear agreement as his “legacy”. He certainly does not want to approve an Iran Sanctions Act which may be interpreted as a reverse of this policy. On the other hand, he has himself demanded accountability from Iran for its violations and negative global behavior. We can assume that he would side with maintaining leverage over the Iranian government for America’s national interests.
But with the threats, Iran has burned its goose and gone too far. It would seem unlikely that any American President can afford to even be perceived as succumbing to Iranian threats.