At a Congressional hearing before the House Committee of Foreign Affairs, Mark Dubowitz – who is the Executive Director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance – testified on July 23, 2015. In his testimony, Dubowitz describes three major design flaws in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, concluded between the five U.N. Security Council veto powers plus Germany and Iran. The testimony also contains recommendations on how Congress, in working with the Obama Administration, can improve on what is commonly known as the Iran Deal.
The three major design flaws discussed by Dubowitz are:
- The JCPOA effectively dismantles the U.S. and international economic sanctions architecture, while emboldening the most hardline element of the regime, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
- Instead of an effective economic sanctions snapback, the JCPOA creates what Dubowitz terms an Iranian “nuclear snapback”, by creating a means for Tehran to immunize itself against political and economic pressure, to block the enforcement of the agreement and diminish the ability to re-apply sanctions in case of Iran’s strategy of “incremental cheating”.
- The agreement allows for a strategy by Iran of a patient path to a nuclear weapon. In the course of the next decade and a half, by simply adhering to the provisions of the JCPOA, Tehran will be able to emerge as a threshold nuclear power, with an advanced long-range missile program (including ICBMs) and sanctions relief that will immunize the Iranian economy against future economic snapback sanctions.
As a result of these flaws, Dubowitz argues, a future president is indeed left with only two possible answers to Iran: either to concede its weapons development or to use military force to stop it. Because even if Tehran does not violate the JCPOA, over time, it will have “patient pathways” to nuclear weapons, an ICBM program, access to heavy weaponry, an economy largely immunized against economic pressure, and a much stronger regional position than today.
Congress should aim for requiring the administration to renegotiate certain terms of the JCPOA and have a say in the amended agreement. Specifically, Congress can ensure that the sanctions architecture is not precipitously unraveled, but is transformed into a conduct-based sanctions regime, thereby providing a peaceful economic leverage to enforce a better deal. To achieve this goal, Congress must
- Develop a rehabilitation program for designated Iranian banks thats puts the onus on Tehran to prove that these banks are no longer engaged in illicit financial conduct.
- Work with the Obama Administration on licences to foreign financial institutions ans foreign companies engaging in business transactions with Iran.
- Legislate criteria for the suspension of sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran.
- Legislate under what circumstances funds in escrow accounts can be released.
- Enforce and expand designations of IRGC-related entities.
- Enforce and expand IRGC, terrorism- and human rights-related designations.
This is an important testimony, because it does not stop at stating what is wrong with the JCPOA, but offers alternatives as to how to get a better deal.