- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said Wednesday the Obama administration intends to “redouble” its efforts to target Iranian government support for terrorism and regional destabilization activities — even as nuclear sanctions on Tehran are being lifted under the major accord reached with world powers this month.

Pushing back at critics of the deal who say Iran’s government will get a massive “signing bonus” if the deal is approved, Mr. Lew also insisted that a wide slate of sanctions on Iranian companies and officials will remain in effect regardless whether Tehran ultimately complies with the nuclear deal.

Suggesting the issue has been mischaracterized during heated congressional hearings on the deal in recent days, Mr. Lew said the only sanctions that will be rolled back “if Iran complies” will be those targeting Tehran’s nuclear program.

“Other sanctions,” he said at a roundtable breakfast discussion hosted by The Christian Science Monitor, including those relating to terrorism, human rights and regional destabilization, “will remain in effect.”

“We are going to make a concerted effort, working with our allies in the region and around the world to redouble our efforts — without the risk of Iran having a nuclear bomb — to deal with the other malign actions that Iran takes,” the treasury secretary said.

But top European officials have been traveling to Iran in recent days, talking openly about re-establishing economic ties and investments blocked by the sanctions. Germany’s economics minister led the parade last week, and France’s Laurent Fabius on Wednesday made the first visit by a French foreign minister to Tehran in a decade to discuss improving bilateral ties.

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As Mr. Lew was speaking, Defense Secretary Ash Carter joined Secretary of State John F. Kerry and other top administration figures for his first appearance on Capitol Hill to defend the Iran deal, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday in another contentious hearing.

Sen. John McCain, the committee’s chairman, contended that the deal paved the way for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon and asserted that Tehran will receive sanctions relief worth “billions of dollars with which to go on a shopping spree in the international arms market.”

Iran will soon receive a windfall of sanctions relief, estimated at roughly $60 billion, or possibly as much as twice that,” the Arizona Republican said.

Mr. Carter pushed back, saying the Pentagon remains focused on a wide range of threats posed by Tehran, even with the nuclear pact in place.

The deal “places no limitations — let me repeat that, no limitations — on what the Department of Defense can and will do to pursue our defense strategy in the region,” he said.

Outgoing Joint Chiefs of Staff head Gen. Martin Dempsey told lawmakers the deal constrains Iran’s nuclear efforts, but does not address concerns about other Iranian activities.

“These run the gamut from ballistic missile technology to weapons trafficking, to the use of surrogates and proxies to naval mines and undersea activity and last but not least to malicious activity in cyberspace,” Gen. Dempsey said.

Congress is now roughly a week into a 60-day review before voting on whether to try to block President Obama from carrying through with sanctions relief for Iran called for under the nuclear deal. The GOP majorities in the House and Senate are widely believed poised to reject the deal, but still must find enough Democrats to override a promised veto from Mr. Obama.

As part of a full-court lobbying press, the president hosted House Democrats to the White House Wednesday afternoon for a “working reception” to discuss the Iran vote.

Asked how confident he was that the administration would win the battle, Mr. Lew said he believed there “enough for [a veto] to be sustained.”

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