President Trump is continuing his quest to support the pro-democracy protesters in Iran, who are being bullied, beaten, and murdered by the Obama-backed Iranian terror government.
In an effort to show the U.S. support for the protesters, and punish the state sponsor of terrorism, President Trump is mulling over reinstating the sanctions, which were lifted during the disastrous Obama/Iran deal.
President Trump’s team is engaged in a serious but discrete internal discussion about whether to renew the key sanctions waived under the terms of the Iran nuclear agreement, administration allies said following a meeting this week at the White House.
National Security Council officials hosted a group of like-minded foreign policy experts Tuesday evening to discuss the U.S. response to the Iran protests. The most dramatic move would be to renew sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran, which former President Barack Obama waived when he implemented the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
“Senior administration officials have said that reimposing sanctions on CBI is very much in play,” a source close to the White House told the Washington Examiner.
The White House team was asked directly about that issue Tuesday but demurred. “The response was, ‘We’re not talking about that,’” another source familiar with the meeting said.
The conversation about the policy regarding the Central Bank of Iran was bound to occur, given that Trump faces a legislative deadline to continue or scrap the sanctions waiver next week. Trump hinted in October that he might scrap the Iran deal if Congress and European allies can’t formulate policy moves to improve the deal and counter Iran’s regional aggression.
But now that discussion is part of a larger question of how the United States can support anti-regime protests that have broken out across Iran over the last week, at least through efforts to combat Iranian censorship.
“They’re going to generate information and make sure it gets around; they’re going to go after the people who censoring the information internally; and then thirdly, they’re going to go after everyone else who is beating the protesters,” the first source close to the White House said. “It’s not just words, it’s not just rhetoric, they are going to do what they can across the board to help the protesters.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s team warned Wednesday that the United States could target Iranian entities that participate in a crackdown on the protesters.
The imposition of sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran would have far-reaching policy consequences. It would amount to the United States declining to provide the sanctions relief promised under the deal, in the absence of international monitors concluding that the regime is in material compliance with the JCPOA. But Iran hawks argue that the regime’s response to the protesters creates an opportunity to renew those sanctions, without calling it an abrogation of the deal.
“The nuclear deal does not actually prohibit the United States from imposing sanctions on any entity that is involved in non-nuclear illicit activity,” Richard Goldberg, a former Senate Republican aide and Iran sanctions expert at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told the Washington Examiner.
“If a bank or the central bank is propping up the Revolutionary Guard Corps as they’re sending the Guard Corps into the streets to put down the uprising, there’s a pretty strong case to make that the president can re-impose sanctions in some way on a variety of these banks or entities or officials and still claim to be complying with the nuclear agreement,” he said.
By that logic, the renewal of the sanctions becomes a near-necessity, or else regime leaders will understand that the nuclear agreement gives them impunity in a wide array of policy areas. “That’s not fathomable,” Goldberg said.
The renewal of such sanctions would seem doubly likely, given that Congress has failed to fulfill Trump’s call for a plan to fix the Iran deal unilaterally. And yet, the administration’s allies on Capitol Hill seem to regard the protests as an argument in favor of their ultimate success on that effort, rather than an impetus to make a final move in the next several days.
“We don’t feel a sense of urgency that we must reach a decision on text and then jam it through before the next deadline for Trump to certify or not,” a Senate Republican aide told the Washington Examiner. “We’re not so worried about moving quickly, and, frankly, if Trump has to decertify and waive sanctions again, so be it. But we’re not going to settle for a bad bill here just to try to [allow] the White House staff to tell Trump they’ve made progress.”