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ISA Renewal Becomes Law Without Obama’s Signature
National

ISA Renewal Becomes Law Without Obama’s Signature

In an unexpected reversal, US President Barack Obama declined to sign a renewal of the Iran Sanctions Act but let it become law anyway, in an apparent bid to alleviate Tehran's concerns that the US is backsliding on the nuclear deal.
Although the White House had said that Obama was expected to sign the 10-year-renewal, the midnight deadline came and went Thursday with no approval from the president. Instead, he opted to let it become law without his signature—a rare move that Obama has never used before.
White House Spokesman Josh Earnest said the president's decision was intended to send a direct message to lawmakers who passed the sanctions renewal over his objections, AP reported.
"If Congress does blow up the deal that prevents Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, they're going to have to deal with the consequences, and the consequences are grave," he said.
Earnest emphasized that the Obama administration can and will continue to waive the sanctions that were lifted as part of the nuclear deal.
Iran says its nuclear activities are totally for civilian purposes, denying the allegations that the program may have had military aspects.  
Under the US Constitution, the president has 10 days after Congress passes a bill to sign it, veto it or do nothing.
If the US Congress has adjourned, failing to sign it is a "pocket veto" that prevents the bill from becoming law. But if the Congress is still in session, the bill becomes law with no signature.
Although lawmakers have returned home for the holidays, the Congress technically is still in session and holding "pro-forma" sessions this week.

  Symbolic Attempt
Though Obama's move does not prevent the sanctions renewal from taking effect, it marked a symbolic attempt to distance the president from lawmakers' fresh slap at Tehran.
The White House has argued that the renewal is unnecessary because the administration retains other authorities to target Iran, if necessary, and has expressed concern that the renewal may undermine the nuclear deal.
Iran had vowed to respond if the sanctions were renewed, arguing they violate the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, which eased sanctions in exchange for curbs on Iran's nuclear program.
The Iranian government has complained to the United Nations about the renewal, and on Tuesday, Iran's president ordered up plans to build nuclear-powered ships and to formally accuse the US of violating the terms of the deal.
Yet US lawmakers argued that renewing the law, first passed in 1996 and renewed several times since, was critical to maintaining pressure on Iran to abide by the deal and to pushing back on Tehran's behavior in the region. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and the House by an overwhelming margin.
The Obama administration stressed that Iran would be unaffected by the renewal, as long as it continues honoring the nuclear deal. Secretary of State John Kerry said he had told his Iranian counterpart that "to ensure maximum clarity", he had issued new, redundant waivers exempting Iran from sanctions lifted under the deal.
"Extension of the Iran Sanctions Act does not affect in any way the scope of the sanctions relief Iran is receiving under the deal or the ability of companies to do business in Iran consistent with the JCPOA," Kerry said, using an abbreviation for the nuclear deal.
US president-elect, Donald Trump, has been sharply critical of the nuclear deal and has threatened to try to renegotiate it, and Israel's prime minister has said he plans to lobby Trump to undo the deal. Republican supporters of the sanctions had argued that renewing them would ensure that Trump would have the authority to reinstate bans that Obama eased.
Under the nuclear deal, the US and world powers lifted sweeping oil, trade and other financial sanctions in exchange for Tehran agreeing to roll back its nuclear program.

 

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