congress trump agree to turn the heat up on iran
Last Updated : GMT 05:21:58
Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today
Last Updated : GMT 05:21:58
Arab Today, arab today

Congress, Trump agree to turn the heat up on Iran

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today Congress, Trump agree to turn the heat up on Iran

US President-elect Donald Trump welcomes Gen. James Mattis (retd) at Trump International Golf Club in New Jersey.
Washington - Arab Today

In Washington, where Democrats and Republicans are bracing for a showdown on a set of healthcare and economic issues, increasing sanctions on Iran appears to be the one legislative item where the two parties and the new President-Elect Donald Trump have found consensus. 
The 10-year extension of Congressional sanctions on Iran (Iran Sanctions Act -ISA-) this week with overwhelming majorities in both the Senate (99-0) and the House (419-1), coupled with a “Financial Times” report that the Trump team is considering new sanctions proposal, are clear harbingers of what awaits as the new US President is sworn into office on Jan. 20. 
Pivoting from Obama’s restraint
The passage of the ISA with the support of members of both parties is a departure from the restraint that the Barack Obama administration has shown since the negotiations on the Iran Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) started in 2012 and after its completion in 2015. 
Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, reads the new escalation by Congress as an admission of the “problem with the JCPOA (Iran deal) from the beginning.” He tells Arab News that the deal “isolated Iran's nuclear activity but failed to address the wide range of other regional disruption that Tehran has long sponsored” such as “support for Hezbollah, the Assad regime, the Houthis, Shiite militias and more.” 
This view is shared today even by Democrats in Congress such as Sen. Bob Menendez , Sen. Tim Kaine and others who voted for ISA. Menendez said on the legislative floor on Thursday that “since the nuclear agreement came into force, Iran has continued its efforts to destabilize the region and increase its power through proxy and terrorist networks.” 
He added: “Since we signed the nuclear agreement with Iran, Iran has been testing the agreement, testing our resolve and quite literally testing long-range ballistic missiles.”
The Obama approach of restraint so as not to disrupt the negotiations on the deal or later jeopardize the deal itself, was interpreted by Iran “as a free hand to continue these activities, even though the White House had a free hand to impose new sanctions” says Schanzer. It was a win-win for Iran, the expert and former official adds, in a sense it kept the deal and “used the threat of walking away from it as leverage to deter the Obama administration from imposing new sanctions ... they understood that if Obama wanted to preserve his legacy, he would likely stand down on non-nuclear issues.” 
New Trump calculus
This cautious Obama approach toward Iran is unlikely to hold under the new Trump administration, as it signals its support for the new Congressional sanctions and is mulling proposals of its own to pressure Tehran. 
Nominating retired Gen. James Mattis as a new secretary of defense, and Michael Pompeo to lead the Central Intelligence Agency reinforces the pivot to turn up the heat on Iran regionally, and attempt to curb its behavior outside the implementation of the nuclear deal.
Schanzer says the “incoming Trump administration has not encumbered Obama’s calculus in any way.” He adds that the new team, “as it shapes up, does not care about Obama's legacy or preserving the deal. So, non-nuclear sanctions are a very viable option. It's certainly not as if they are lacking in targets.” 
Would Iran walk away from the nuclear deal or at least abandon its commitments toward Washington in the agreement? “Not at first” predicts Schanzer, saying “there is too much they have yet to gain from the JCPOA” in banking and economic incentives. However, and with Congress considering new banking and finance sanctions on Iran early next year, “it is quite possible that the nuclear deal begins to unravel” according to Schanzer.
For now, the rules of the game that Obama has set in place between Tehran and Washington are about to change, pointing to inevitable escalation if we were to believe the rhetoric and actions coming from the Congress and the Trump transition team.

Source: Arab News

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