Democratic Congressman Advocates Sanctions on Iran

Rep. Brad Sherman (D., Calif.) heaped criticism on the Iranian nuclear deal during a Wednesday hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, calling for more sanctions on Iran to punish its military involvement in Syria.

Sherman has been one of the most vocal Democratic dissenters from the Obama administration's diplomatic agreement with Iran.

"People in this country want us to get along with everyone around the world. We long for peace. And there are those who say that sanctions contradict that," Sherman said. "But when you look at what Iran has done in Syria, hundreds of thousands, perhaps a million people killed by Assad, with funds provided, weapons provided, thugs provided by the Iranian government, when you see people killed by barrel bombs and sarin gas, we realize that the right response to the Iranian regime cannot be ‘kumbaya.’"

"This House was divided on the Iran deal, but we were united in one thing, sanctions work and Mr. Zubin, and thanks to you and your predecessors, you proved they work by working hard to make sure that they work," Sherman said. "Some believe that the sanctions got us a good deal, some believe the sanctions would have gotten us a better deal, the only agreement was sanctions work. And I join with the ranking member (Rep. Eliot Engel [D., N.Y.]) in saying that we ought to have new sanctions and Ambassador Mull, thank you for clarifying that that will happen."

Sherman asked Stephen Mull, the ambassador who coordinates implementation of the agreement and appeared before the committee on Wednesday, whether reauthorizing a sanctions bill against Iran would violate the United States's obligations under the Iran nuclear deal.

"Is it correct to say that the administration's view is that simply reauthorizing and extending the Iran Sanctions Act would in no way violate the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action)?" Sherman said.

Mull seemed to dodge Sherman's question.

"To be honest Congressman, we are aware of interest in this House and throughout the Congress in general to reauthorize the [Iran Sanctions Act]. We don't believe that we need to act on it now because it's valid through the end of this year," Mull said.

"Well, sometimes Congress likes to get our work done. I didn't ask you, you know, the House schedule. We might want to get our work done sooner or later," Sherman said. "Is it a violation of the JCPOA to simply keep our statute going the way it was the day the JCPOA was signed?"

"Sir, I would be hesitant to speculate because I know under previous efforts to re-extend it there have been other things added on to that legislation," Mull said.

"Again, if it were published in the exact language that existed on the day the JCPOA was signed, would that be a violation of the JCPOA?" Sherman asked.

"Uh, well, again sir, we'd have to look at what was actually published," Mull said.

This evasion prompted laughter from Sherman.

"You know what' s published. You don't want to answer the question," Sherman said.