The United States Senate recently extended its 1996 sanctions against Iran, which were imposed as measures against the Iranian regime’s support for terrorism. These sanctions are also known as the Iran Sanctions Act or ISA.
Iran is claiming that by extending these sanctions, the U.S has violated the Iran nuclear deal. Others dispute this claim.
I put this question to Richard Nephew, who is an Adjunct Professor, Program Director and Fellow at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. According to his bio: “he was the Principal Deputy Coordinator for Sanctions Policy at the Department of State, a position he held since February 2013. Nephew also served as the lead sanctions expert for the U.S. team negotiating with Iran.”
So he is eminently qualified in this field. Here is his reply:
Basically, I think the answer is “no, the United States has not technically broken the JCPOA.” [Note the JCPOA is the technical acronym for the Iran nuclear deal]
But, this is of course subject to interpretation.
By my reading of the JCPOA, the United States has not reintroduced sanctions that were terminated — which would be against the deal — nor has the United States reimposed actual penalties pursuant to those sanctions (which would also be against the deal).
Iran has argued that, since the JCPOA covers the sanctions within the ISA, it is a violation to reauthorize that act, and stated its interpretation of the JCPOA as such. But, I cannot see that in the text.
I could see an argument, if ISA expired, that the reintroduction of the law WOULD be a violation. So, if the ISA were not extended now, but say in 2017, I could see the Iranian argument. But, continuing with this — just like the President reannouncing the declaration of national emergency for U.S. sanctions against Iran that would generally prohibit the Boeing deal, save the licenses that supersede that emergency declaration — seems completely within the JCPOA.
I can also see the argument that extension of the ISA is unnecessary or provocative, but this — in my view — is a political statement, not a legal one.