As the White House and Congress gear up for a showdown over the extension of sanctions on Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei is sending a warning to Washington. Reuters:
Extending U.S. sanctions on Iran for 10 years would breach the Iranian nuclear agreement, Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said on Wednesday, warning that Tehran would retaliate if the sanctions are approved.
The U.S. House of Representatives re-authorized last week the Iran Sanctions Act, or ISA, for 10 years. The law was first adopted in 1996 to punish investments in Iran’s energy industry and deter Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.
The Iran measure will expire at the end of 2016 if it is not renewed. The House bill must still be passed by the Senate and signed by President Barack Obama to become law.
The White House has already said President Obama will veto the bill reauthorizing sanctions if it lands on his desk. GOP leaders in Congress clearly see this coming: in a new public letter to the president, Paul Ryan and others warn Obama against making “concessions” to Iran before Donald Trump takes office. But this advice will likely fall on deaf ears. President Obama has no interest in scuttling one of his major foreign policy deals, so long as he can help it.
Still, the current drama over Iran shows once again how precarious Obama’s foreign policy legacy is. As with the toothless Paris climate accord, Obama failed to marshal bipartisan Congressional approval for the nuclear deal. Rather than pursuing formal Senate ratification of the treaty, which would require a two-thirds majority, the White House squeaked the Iran deal through with an arrangement that would require a two-thirds majority to reject it. That was a clever maneuver at the time, but it means that the unpopular Iran deal lacks formal treaty status, and can be unraveled fairly easily by the next administration.
Will Donald Trump scrap the deal outright? That is still an open question, and even some critics of the deal, in Israel and the U.S., have been urging caution. But as the Ayatollah issues public broadsides against the U.S. and a Republican Congress squares off against Obama on the issue, pressure for a hardline stance on Iran may grow.