Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin told Congress this week that he is devoting a considerable amount of effort on economic sanctions and enforcement. About half of his time, Mnuchin told Congress Wednesday, is dedicated to figuring out how to best use economic sanctions.
In response to a question from Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) about the resources available for enforcement, Mnuchin told Ways and Means Committee members that one of the most important aspects of his job was enforcing economic sanctions, stressing at one point that they “really work.” While he did not talk about it this week, Mnuchin and his crew have been creative in selecting sanctions targets in Iran. For example, a few weeks ago they sanctioned a senior official of the Iranian regime who runs the prison sector, a clear message to the Iranians to release all Americans and U.S. Legal Permanent Residents being held hostage.
The Treasury Secretary, however, did not say whether more resources would be allocated in the President’s budget for the Office of Foreign Assets Controls (OFAC), Treasury’s sanctions enforcement arm. I think that OFAC needs a significant boost in funding for FY2018. In fact, they should reprogram monies this year to boost enforcement and compliance initiatives already underway.
With respect to Iran, Mnuchin said that there was no question that Iran was forced to negotiate a nuclear agreement because of tough economic sanctions, but stressing also that it could’ve been a better deal. “We will us everything within in our power to put additional sanctions on Iran, Syria, and North Korea to protect America lives.” Cuba was notably missing from that list.
Mnuchin acknowledged that several licenses submitted under the Iran program were under review that would allow Boeing and Airbus to sell airplanes and spare parts to Iran. Rep. Roskam, and many other Members of Congress, oppose the sale of aircraft to Iran. Efforts are supposedly underway to block the deal. Roskam and members of Congress from both political parties have raised various reasons for not allowing the sale of high-tech civilian aircraft to Iran including issues of national security, export controls, as well as Iran taking Americans and U.S. Legal Permanent Residents hostage.
While it does not seem, for now, that the United States will walk away from The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), something the U.S. could do because, in part, the JCPOA is not a treaty, it is almost a certainty that the Congress will send President Trump Iran sanctions legislation and he will sign it. New sanctions may complicate matters so much so for Iran that, who knows, Iran may officially walk away from the agreement arguing that the U.S., by imposing new sanctions, has essentially nullified the terms. That would all be an elaborate PR stunt by Iran because, according to experts, Iran is already violating JCPOA terms.