Report

Iran to United Nations; New Sanctions Could Kill Nuclear Deal

Tehran is warning that it may “reconsider its commitments” under the pact if the U.S. and its allies reimpose nuclear sanctions over its alleged support for terrorism and human rights abuses.

An Iranian man holds a placard reading "Sanctions must be removed specially oil and Central Bank" during a demonstration outside the Tehran Research Reactor in the capital Tehran on November 23, 2014, to show support to Iran's nuclear programme. Iran and six world powers are holding talks in Vienna to reach a lasting agreement on Tehran's disputed nuclear programme before November 24. Such a deal, after 12 years of rising tensions, is aimed at easing fears that Tehran will develop nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian activities -- an ambition the Islamic republic has always fiercly denied. AFP PHOTO/ATTA KENARE        (Photo credit should read ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)
An Iranian man holds a placard reading "Sanctions must be removed specially oil and Central Bank" during a demonstration outside the Tehran Research Reactor in the capital Tehran on November 23, 2014, to show support to Iran's nuclear programme. Iran and six world powers are holding talks in Vienna to reach a lasting agreement on Tehran's disputed nuclear programme before November 24. Such a deal, after 12 years of rising tensions, is aimed at easing fears that Tehran will develop nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian activities -- an ambition the Islamic republic has always fiercly denied. AFP PHOTO/ATTA KENARE (Photo credit should read ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

Iran has warned the U.N. Security Council it may reconsider its commitment to a landmark nuclear deal with key powers if the United States or any other state reimposes nuclear-related sanctions on Tehran under the pretext of countering other Iranian activities.

In a statement transmitted to the 15-member body, Iran’s U.N. envoy, Gholamali Khoshroo, said Tehran “may reconsider its commitments” under the nuclear pact if U.S., European, and U.N. sanctions lifted under the deal are “impaired by continued application or the imposition of new sanctions with a nature and scope identical or similar to those that were in place prior to the implementation date, irrespective of whether such new sanctions are introduced on nuclear related or other grounds, unless the issues are remedied within a reasonably short time.”

Khoshroo first issued the warning before the U.N. Security Council on July 20. But the matter has taken on added significance as Congressional leaders have sought clarification on whether the nuclear pact will restrict their ability to sanction Iran in the future. For the last two weeks, Republican and Democratic lawmakers have peppered U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew with questions about their right to hit Iran with a fresh round of sanctions if Iran continues to support terrorism or the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“Is Congress and the United States free, under this agreement, to adopt new sanctions legislation that will remain in force as long as Iran … supports Assad?” asked Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) during a Tuesday hearing at the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Last week, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker said that he wanted to be reassured that the United States still has the flexibility to impose non-nuclear sanctions on Iran for supporting terrorism, abusing human rights, and advancing its ballistic missile program.

Under the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, the United States and its European allies agreed to “refrain from any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalization of trade and economic relations with Iran inconsistent with their commitments not to undermine the successful implementation of this JCPOA.”

During a hearing on Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry assured lawmakers that the United States could continue to impose sanctions against Iran for its support of terrorism and other nefarious activities. “We are free to add those,” he said.

During a Senate hearing last week, Lew assured lawmakers that the United States would maintain a broad range of sanctions on Iran for an expansive set of non-nuclear issues. “We also have made clear we reserve the right to put additional sanctions in place to address concerns about terrorism, human rights, and other issues,” Lew added. “The thing that we can’t do, is we can’t just put [the nuclear sanctions] right back in place … and just put a new label on it.”

As Congress continued to debate whether to support the nuclear accord or oppose it, America’s allies began working to shore up their diplomatic relations with Iran. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius will travel to Tehran Wednesday to discuss trade and Middle East security matters with Iranian officials. His visit comes a week after Germany’s vice chancellor and minister for economic affairs and energy, Sigmar Gabriel, led a delegation of German business executives to Tehran. It was the first high-level visit to Iran by a senior German official in 13 years.

In an oped piece published Tuesday in Iran Daily, Fabius wrote that “our businessmen and industrialists have been working together for a long time. French technology and products are well known and meet the high expectations of Iranian entrepreneurs and consumers. Now, both countries can further their economic cooperation as new perspectives open up.”

Fabius said that the July 14 nuclear accord marked a “turning point” in France’s relations with Tehran. But he said that “mutual trust” could only be built if Iran meets its commitments to scale back its nuclear activities.

“The path is clear for renewed bilateral dialogue,” Fabius said, adding that he would discuss regional security matters during his visit. “In the face of so many crises and tragedies, Iran – an influential power – can play a positive role.”

John Hudson contributed to this report.

(This story has been updated)

Photo credit: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

Colum Lynch is a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @columlynch

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