Legality of Lifting Sanctions Against Iran Called Into Question

U.S. President Barack Obama does not have the power to lift the sanctions against Iran as the nuclear agreement stands today, according to an American lawmaker and an expert in constitutional law.

The argument is made in the The Washington Post, by Representative Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas) and David B. Rivkin Jr., a constitutional litigator.

The pair say the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, which was passed by Congress and signed into power by Obama, stipulates the president may not “waive, suspend, reduce, provide relief from, or otherwise limit the application of statutory sanctions with respect to Iran” while Congress is in the process of reviewing the agreement.

However, Pompeo and Rivkin note that another crucial provision of the law is that, “The act defines ‘agreement,’ with exceptional precision.” It includes “not only the agreement between Iran and six Western powers but also ‘any additional materials related thereto, including … side agreements, implementing materials, documents, and guidance, technical or other understandings, and any related agreements, whether entered into or implemented prior to the agreement or to be entered into or implemented in the future.’”

Put simply, until Congress is given the secret side agreements that are being negotiated behinbd closed doors and will remain in secret between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency, Congress is not legally in the process of reviewing the agreement.

The side agreements comprise two of the most crucial components of the deal: details of the verifications process and issues concerning possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.

Pompeo and Rivkin note that these two issues are vital to the national security of the U.S. and its allies, which “makes the situation all the more serious.”

In addition, as Pompeo and Rivkin point out, the act stipulates the review process must take place between July 10 and Sept.  7. Now that Sept. 7 has passed without Congressional review of the full agreement, the two argue that “the president’s ability to waive statutory sanctions will remain frozen in perpetuity.

“Congress must now confront the grave issues of constitutional law prompted by the president’s failure to comply with his obligations under the act,” the two write. 

Pompeo, a Republican is a member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Rivkin is a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and served in the Justice Department and the White House Counsel’s Office. 

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