Reportedly, President Trump is considering decertifying the nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic before the October 15 deadline, a move that would allow Congress to renew sanctions. Conventional wisdom has it that such sanctions will fail, since their success depends on the cooperation of American allies who will be much less willing than previously to go along. Citing the example of the 2011 legislation sanctioning Iran’s central bank—passed by Congress over the objections of the Obama administration—Richard Goldberg disagrees:
In a closed-door meeting, then-Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, and Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Neal Wolin begged and pleaded with the senators [sponsoring the legislation] to withdraw [it]. The United States would not be able to force its allies to go along with the plan, they said—the sanctions regime would fall apart, there would be global outrage and resistance, and gas prices would skyrocket. . . .
[However], every European and Asian ally that had come to Capitol Hill to lobby against [the 2011 sanctions bill] fully complied with it after it came into force. The measure was such a success that President Barack Obama claimed credit for it in his 2012 reelection campaign.
This wasn’t the first time that economic consultants, U.S. businesses, and both European and Asian allies opposed a unilateral congressional sanctions measure—and it wasn’t the last, either. But every time, history proved them wrong. . . .
Today, we are seeing the same old opponents of tough sanctions on Iran come out of the woodwork to warn President Donald Trump against threatening to reimpose a global financial embargo on Iran. Despite Iran’s refusal to allow inspections at military sites, continued testing of advanced ballistic missiles, expansion of its terrorist proxy armies into Syria and Lebanon, and holding of American hostages, former Obama administration officials argue that the United States has no choice but to keep its most powerful sanctions options in a lockbox for fear of European and Asian noncompliance.
Their arguments ring as hollow today as they did in the past. European and Asian businesses will oppose the reimposition of sanctions on Iran right up until the point they are reimposed. And then their lawyers will force them to comply—choosing continued access to the $19-trillion American financial system over Iran’s $400 billion.