In January 2016, the Iran Deal strengthened the world’s belief in diplomacy. The union forged between the United Nations Security Council states, Germany, the European Union, and Iran promised to create a more peaceful world, providing sanctions relief for Iran in exchange for the scaling back of its nuclear program. As a result, all of Iran’s potential pathways to obtaining nuclear weapons have been verifiably blocked. The agreement has been working for well over a year, but its continuance is threatened by the words and actions of President Donald Trump and our Congress.
In order to strengthen ties with Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Muslim countries in the Middle East, President Trump has demonized Iran at a time when diplomatic relations with the country could be improving. Moderate Hassan Rouhani was re-elected as president of Iran last month with broad support for a platform calling for more engagement with the international community. The Iran Deal helped to empower moderates like Rouhani, but President Trump’s villainizing words threaten to dismantle this progress.
During his visit to Saudi Arabia, President Trump said Iran funds violent extremists and threatens diplomacy in the region. He ignored Saudi Arabia’s own brutal intervention in Yemen’s civil war, which has fueled extremism and strengthened affiliates of ISIS and al Qaeda in Yemen. The Saudi coalition has bombed Yemen’s civilians and blockaded ports, stifling access to food and medical supplies, yet this is the country with whom our President has proposed a $110 billion arms deal.
Additionally, Senators Bob Corker (R-TN), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the ranking Democratic on the committee, have introduced S. 722, a bill to impose new sanctions on Iran. While Iran has upheld its end of the deal made last year, our implementation of such broad sanctions would violate the spirit of the agreement, if not violating it directly.
Not only could the sanctions imposed violate the deal, but the bill also effectively designates Iran’s main military force as a terrorist organization – a move denounced by previous administrations and the Pentagon. This classification endangers U.S. troops, opening them up to similar counter-designations and possibly leading to war.
The sanctions bill is known as “Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017,” an ironic title coming from a country who just signed the largest arms deal in American history with Iran’s regional rival, Saudi Arabia. The United States claims to implement sanctions as punishment for “destabilizing activities,” when we ourselves are threatening the stability of the region by introducing another $110 billion worth of weapons.
Diplomacy with Iran has proven to be the best way to resolve our disagreements and advance stability in the region, and selling arms to Saudi Arabia has proven to be one of the worst. Unfortunately, our senators did not recognize this is last Thursday’s vote, choosing to pass S. 722 by an overwhelming majority. Only two voted in opposition – Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders. The Saudi arms deal has seen support in Congress as well, as senators voted to refuse blocking a large part of the deal last week.
While these deals were approved in the Senate, you can still call your House representatives to ask them to reject the Iran sanctions. Calling your senators to voice your disapproval of their vote can also help halt similar bills in the future.