As the Iran nuclear deal reaches implementation stage, the US Congress has introduced new disruptive measures, such as the Visa Waiver Program to frustrate completion of the deal. Can the US be trusted?
At a time when the Iran nuclear deal is nearing implementation stage, the US Congress has thrown its spanner in the works by imposing visa restrictions on dual nationals from Iran, Syria, Iraq, and Sudan, and anyone who has visited those countries in the last five years. As part of the House of Representatives resolution (HR 158), Congress passed on December 19 a law affecting its Visa Waiver Program (VWP) that normally exempts nationals from 38 countries from having to obtain visas to visit the United States.
Naturally, Tehran is not thrilled by the latest development. The new Congressional bill came within five days of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board certifying Iran’s compliance with its obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT). The IAEA certification was seen as overcoming one more hurdle in removing the illegal sanctions imposed on Iran by the US as well as through the UN. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reacted by describing the move as a “negative” signal in the wake of the conclusion of the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that was signed in Vienna on July 14, 2015.
The US Congress had tried to derail it at that time as well but it was unable to muster the requisite votes. In a letter to Dr. Zarif on December 20, US Secretary of State John Kerry tried to limit the damage by saying the visa changes “will not in any way prevent us from meeting our JCPOA commitments.”
Alluding to the White House waiver authority, Kerry further said the regime had a number of “potential tools… including multiple entry ten-year business visas,” and also “programs for expediting business visas” to overcome the hurdle. Not only dual citizens of the countries mentioned, the Europeans, Japanese, and South Koreans are also upset by the latest disruptive measure. They point to Article 29 of the JCPOA, “The EU and its member States and the United States, consistent with their respective laws, will refrain from any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalisation of trade and economic relations with Iran.” Equally absurd, the law will also affect tourists to Iran.
Reacting to the new law, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said Tehran had consulted with European countries on countering the new law. He warned that if the law is applied, Iran “will put forward a request to the Joint Commission, because the law goes against the nuclear accord.” The Republican dominated Congress as well as the entire crop of Republican presidential contenders have come out strongly against the JCPOA. They have said if elected, they will scrap it.
While this is a problem for the Obama regime to sort out, the Islamic Republic must be very careful in terms of how the deal is implemented. The Americans are not trustworthy. They have a long history of walking away from commitments even when given in writing. Soothing words or promises of good behaviour should not be taken at face value. Deeds not words should guide the Islamic Republic’s policy vis-à-vis the US.