1. Statement
  2. Middle East & Iran

FCNL Opposes Snapback Sanctions on Iran and Urges a Return to Diplomacy

By Hassan El-Tayyab, September 22, 2020


FCNL opposes the administration’s efforts to reimpose UN sanctions on Iran and to undermine and formally kill the Iran nuclear deal.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s Sept. 20 announcement that “snapback” sanctions are in force, and his threats of secondary sanctions on nations that trade with Iran, are just the latest moves in a failed “maximum pressure” campaign. That campaign has destabilized the Middle East, isolated the United States, closed off avenues for diplomacy, and pushed Iran to restart nuclear development. Congress must speak out against this policy in order to build momentum for peace and to foster a return to the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The maximum pressure campaign has destabilized the Middle East, isolated the United States, closed off avenues for diplomacy, and pushed Iran to restart nuclear development.

“Snapback” is the process by which UN sanctions may be re-imposed on Iran in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2231. The snapback process begins when a JCPOA participant State notifies the UN Security Council that it believes Iran is not in compliance with its commitments under the nuclear agreement. In this scenario, all prior restrictions on Iran would “snap back” into place. All other parties to the accord, including Britain, France, and the European Union, are seeking to keep the Iran nuclear deal alive and assert that the United States, as a non-JCPOA participant, has no authority to trigger snapback.

Nonetheless in August, the United States pushed for a vote at the UN Security Council to extend the UN arms embargo on Iran. Its gambit failed 13-15, with only the Dominican Republic voting with the United States. On Sept. 20, Secretary Pompeo notified the UN Security Council that Iran was in “significant nonperformance” of its obligations under the nuclear deal and that the United States will move to enforce the restored sanctions. Pompeo also stated that the United States will penalize UN member states and businesses for violations.

FCNL calls on Congress to push for good faith diplomacy and a return to the JCPOA.

Prior to U.S. withdrawal from the deal, IAEA inspectors reported that Iran was “implementing all its nuclear commitments.” Since the United States pulled out of the JCPOA, however, Iran began slowly enriching nuclear material, exceeding its 3.67% cap on low enriched uranium. Snapback sanctions would likely kill the deal entirely and eliminate Iran’s diplomatic incentives to slow down its nuclear program. A formal end to the JCPOA could also mean that international inspectors will lose all access to Iran’s nuclear facilities, thereby increasing uncertainty and the risk of accidents and miscalculation.

The JCPOA was and remains the world’s best hope for capping Iran’s nuclear program and reducing tensions between the United States and Iran. While claiming a desire to end endless war, the administration has rapidly escalated tensions between our two countries, following a path of threats and intimidation that is ineffective, immoral, and unwise. For the sake of peace, stability and human security, FCNL calls on Congress to push for good faith diplomacy and a return to the JCPOA.

Middle East & Iran 

Find Nonviolent Political Solutions

When crises break out in the Middle East, the U.S. too often turns to violence first. FCNL lobbies for nonviolent engagement in the Middle East to prevent, de-escalate and resolve longstanding conflicts. Political grievances contribute to instability and violence, so lasting peace in the region will require engagement with all stakeholders.

Hassan El-Tayyab

  • Legislative Manager for Middle East Policy

Hassan El-Tayyab is FCNL’s lead lobbyist on Middle East policy. He is also responsible for representing FCNL with the various coalitions that work on these issues.