US Sanctions Weapon Has Become Blunt

The new US sanctions are inconsistent with the nuclear deal, as the agreement commits all parties to implement it in good faith and refrain from any action that would undermine its successful implementation
President Hassan Rouhani at a Cabinet meeting in Tehran, July 26. President Hassan Rouhani at a Cabinet meeting in Tehran, July 26.
By a 419-3 vote, the US House of Representatives approved the “Countering Iran's Destabilizing Activities Act” that would also levy new penalties on Russia and North Korea

President Hassan Rouhani played down a contentious sanctions bill advancing in the US Congress, saying the nuclear deal has weakened the US hand in pushing its policy of sanctions and pressure against the Islamic Republic.

"The Americans' hands have been tied by JCPOA," Rouhani told a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, a day after the US House of Representatives voted to overwhelmingly pass the sanctions measure, IRNA reported.

He was using the formal title of the Iran nuclear agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

"The anti-Iran [measure] is in effect a repetition of past sanctions. This shows that America's sanctions weapon has become blunt," he said.

The president reiterated a vow to provide an "appropriate" response to the Congress move.

Rouhani oversaw 18 months of negotiations with major powers, which led to the July 2015 deal.

The action plan was meant to settle over 12 years of standoff with the West over Tehran's nuclear program.

The six powers agreed under the landmark pact to ease sanctions against Iran in return for temporary constraints on its nuclear development.

By a 419-3 vote, the house approved the Countering Iran's Destabilizing Activities Act that would also levy new penalties on Russia and North Korea.

The bill had been bogged down in controversy in recent weeks over objections from the Trump administration.

The White House has been opposed to a provision in the bill that requires congressional approval for any attempt by the president to lift the sanctions on Russia.

An earlier US Senate version of the bill passed 98-2, but was only aimed at Russia and Iran. It did not include the measures against North Korea, which are now in the house bill.

The latest bill must now return to the senate, where it is expected to pass easily, before it is sent to Trump.

Despite the White House's opposition to the bill, it is likely to become law.

Even if Trump decides to veto the legislation, it has already passed both chambers by veto-proof margins, the Guardian reported.

Iran's nuclear negotiator, Abbas Araqchi, criticized the new sanctions as being "inconsistent with the JCPOA provisions".

He invoked a JCPOA term that commits all parties to implement it "in good faith and in a constructive atmosphere, based on mutual respect, and to refrain from any action inconsistent with [its] letter, spirit and intent that would undermine its successful implementation".

"The Congress measure runs counter to these commitments and will definitely face a response by the Islamic Republic," Araqchi said.

The Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission would convene an extraordinary meeting shortly to consider an anti-American bill to confront "adventurist and terrorist" US actions in the region, the commission's chairman, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, said.

***Provisions of Anti-Iran Bill

The US legislation seeks to punish Iran for its missile development and alleged human rights violations and "conventional and asymmetric … threats in the Middle East and North Africa".

It targets the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps for its support of anti-Israel resistance groups and also imposes an arms embargo.

The bill directs the US president to impose financial sanctions and a travel ban on individuals and entities who "knowingly engage in any activity that materially contributes to the activities of the government of Iran with respect to its ballistic missile program".

It would also commit the US secretary of state to identify individuals responsible for certain human rights abuses within Iran and authorize, but not require, the US president to slap financial sanctions and a travel ban against those designated for human rights abuses.

The measure emphasizes that the entire IRGC, "not just the IRGC's Qods Force", is responsible for allegedly conducting destabilizing activities, supporting terrorism and developing Iran's disputed ballistic missile program, a language that would have the practical effect of designating the IRGC as a foreign terrorist group.

It also commits the US president to impose sanctions on any person who "knowingly engages in any activity that materially contributes to the supply, sale or transfer [of arms] directly or indirectly to or from Iran … [or] knowingly provides to Iran any technical training, financial resources or services, advice, other services or assistance related to the supply, sale, transfer, manufacture, maintenance or use of arms".


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