A top Treasury official said Tuesday that sanctions pressure on Iran will actually “continue to mount” over the coming months under a new nuclear agreement negotiated by the Obama administration and other world powers, despite Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s assertion that the U.S. “will suspend certain sanctions.”
In an op-ed titled “We’re Not Easing Sanctions on Iran,” David S. Cohen, Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, claims that “Iran will be even deeper in the hole six months from now when the deal expires than it is today.”
“As the principal U.S. official charged with crafting and enforcing our sanctions program, I am confident that the sanctions pressure on Iran will continue to mount,” Mr. Cohen wrote in Wednesday’s print edition of The Wall Street Journal.
The article signaled a uptick in the Obama administration’s attempt to squash bipartisan criticism in Congress of the initial Iran deal reached last month in Geneva.
Mr. Kerry on Tuesday faced off on Capitol Hill with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle skeptical of the Obama administration’s willingness to allow any sanctions relief to Iran while also allowing the Islamic republic to continue enriching uranium — albeit to a limited degree — under the deal.
Israeli leaders, who have long argued that Iran is secretly seeking to obtain a nuclear bomb, have condemned the deal.
While some lawmakers in Washington are calling for new sanctions on Iran, there may not be enough political momentum on Capitol Hill to pass such legislation.
Mr. Cohen acknowledged that Tehran under the interim agreement stands to receive some “$6 billion to $7 billion in relief” from sanctions now in place, primarily through a repatriation of frozen oil revenues, a suspension of some sanctions on Iran’s auto and petrochemical industries, and a new ability to buy gold in the international marketplace. But, Mr. Cohen argued, none of the relief “comes from U.S. taxpayers.”
And, he stressed: “Viewed in light of Iran’s struggling economy, this sum is inconsequential.”
“The total relief is a small fraction of the roughly $80 billion Iran has lost since early 2012 because of U.S. and European Union oil sanctions, and of the nearly $100 billion in Iran’s foreign exchange holdings that are mostly restricted or inaccessible due to U.S. financial and banking sanctions,” Mr. Cohen wrote.
“Iran’s economy will also continue to suffer because the core architecture of U.S. sanctions — especially our potent oil, financial and banking sanctions — remains firmly in place,” he wrote. “The oil sanctions alone cost Iran about $5 billion a month in lost sales, meaning that over the six-month duration of the Joint Plan, Iran will lose about $30 billion in oil revenue.”