(November 14, 2013) – The United States Congress should not impose further sanctions on Iran while the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 countries are ongoing as adopting new sanctions will seriously jeopardize all efforts to end Iran’s nuclear standoff and worsen their impact on ordinary Iranians, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said today.
In a meeting with the US Senate Banking Committee on November 13, Senator Mark Kirk suggested including additional sanctions on Iran as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which Congress will vote on within the next two weeks. The last round of nuclear negotiations ended November 10 without an agreement, but all parties agreed to engage in another round next week.
“Adding more sanctions at this stage in the negotiations, when there is a lot of hope about the fate of nuclear talks with Iran, is tantamount to sabotage,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Campaign. “The idea of adding more sanctions at this crucial point in the negotiations disappoints millions of Iranians who are hopeful these talks will lead to a compromise and help lift the sanctions, and sounds like a drumbeat leading to war.”
In April 2013, the Campaign published a study on the impact of sanctions and regime policies on the economic and social rights of the Iranian people. According to the study, the combination of poor Iranian economic policies and especially the international sanctions since 2012 have been severely deteriorating the quality of life of the Iranian people.
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani was elected in June 2013 on a moderate platform based on two main promises: to lift the sanctions and improve Iranians’ quality of life, and to enhance their political and social freedoms. On both fronts, hardliners in Tehran have been pressing back against Rouhani’s attempts at change. In order to create the image that nothing has changed since the election, they have consistently criticized and undermined his efforts both domestically and internationally. In September, hardliners strongly criticized Rouhani’s historic phone conversation with US President Barack Obama, and the hardliner-controlled Judiciary has executed more Iranians in the three months since Rouhani took office—more than 200 people—than in the same period last year.
After the November 13 meeting with the Senate Banking Committee, Senator Kirk told reporters, “How do you define an Iranian moderate? An Iranian who is out of bullets and out of money.” Meanwhile, Iranian hardliners have been publicly criticizing Rouhani’s “softness” in the nuclear negotiations.
“It is disheartening to see that hardliner radicals in Iran and conservative senators in the US are working hand in hand to ensure the negotiations go nowhere,” said Ghaemi. “Piling on more sanctions at this point will give further ammunition to the radical elements within the Iranian establishment, who find the prospect of a deal unacceptable.”
Millions of Iranians voted for Rouhani with the hope that his administration would change course both internationally, negotiating a reprieve from the sanctions, and domestically, ending the ongoing attack on human rights.
“The risk is that if Congress were to unilaterally move to raise sanctions, it could break faith in those negotiations and actually stop them and break them apart,” US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters before entering the meeting with the Senate Banking Committee.
“Successful negotiations will both alleviate the economic hardship of the Iranian people and increase Iran’s engagement with the international community. This, in turn, will strengthen the international community’s efforts to hold Iran accountable to its human rights obligations and pressure Rouhani’s government to focus on ending the ongoing domestic repression in the country,” Ghaemi said. “The US Congress should not preemptively incapacitate these negotiations with even more sanctions.”
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