When the Trump administration withdrew from its 2015 agreement with Tehran, it did not immediately resume the entire battery of sanctions that the agreement had suspended. Instead, it issued a number of specific, temporary waivers. This week the State Department renewed for another 60 days one of these waivers, which blocks sanctions on the European, Russian, and Chinese corporations that operate the Islamic Republic’s supposedly civilian nuclear facilities. Jonathan Tobin criticizes this decision, apparently taken at the behest of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin:
Mnuchin is apparently more interested in good relations with the international community than in using American economic power to roll back the alarming gains Iran has made in the Middle East—gains made as a result of Barack Obama’s misguided attempt to bring about a rapprochement with Tehran.
This is a huge mistake. Richard Goldberg, [an expert on Iran sanctions], has argued that we could retain the waiver if the Europeans, Russians, and Chinese promised to “snap back” sanctions in the event that Iran violated the deal. Indeed, under the pact, these countries have pledged to hold Iran accountable. But none of them have any intention of doing so. What they want is to preserve the nuclear deal at all costs; they want to roll back President Trump’s sanctions policy, which has made it harder for the Iranians to continue funding terror.
The timing for this decision is also particularly tragic because it comes just after a public acknowledgement that Robert Levinson, a retired American intelligence operative kidnapped by Iran in 2007, died while in Iranian custody. Levinson’s disappearance is still officially unsolved—Iran has not produced his body. But Levinson’s family has recently said that the Trump administration told them that newly discovered intelligence—reportedly including intercepted Iranian communications—show that Levinson died while in Iranian hands sometime in the past several years.
Sadly, along with other U.S. concessions made during the Iran-deal negotiations, then-President Obama and then-Secretary of State John Kerry decided they would not hold up the agreement by insisting that Iran free Levinson or produce his body. The recent history of American dealings with Iran has been dominated by that kind of callous expediency. . . . Strengthening Iran by once again loosening sanctions—as Mnuchin apparently wants—out of misplaced sympathy or a desire to accommodate the Europeans or Russians won’t help anyone but the [ayatollahs].