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April 20, 2016 8:28 am

Obama Administration Launches Campaign to Pressure All 50 States to Overturn Iran Sanctions

avatar by Lea Speyer

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The Obama administration is pressuring the governors of all 50 states to rescind laws sanctioning Iran. Photo: Pete Souza / Official White House Photo.

The Obama administration is pressuring the governors of all 50 states to rescind laws sanctioning Iran. Photo: Pete Souza / Official White House Photo.

The Obama administration is quietly urging the governors of all 50 states to rescind any remaining sanctions on Iran, Bloomberg View reported on Monday.

According to the report, the State Department’s lead coordinator for the Iran nuclear deal’s implementation, Stephen Mull, sent a letter earlier this month to each governor requesting his state reconsider laws requiring the divestment of state funds from companies that engage in business with the Iran. The move comes amid the beginning of the federal implementation of the nuclear agreement, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

In the April 8 letter sent to Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and obtained by Bloomberg View, Mull wrote: “Some states have adopted laws designed to incentivize Iran to change its behavior in certain ways. If that is the case in your state, I would urge you to consider whether the implementation of the JCPOA, which verifiably ensures that Iran’s nuclear program is and will remain exclusively peaceful, addresses the underlying concerns with Iran articulated in your state’s law.”

Rauner, a Republican, previously stated he would unlikely join in the effort to ease sanctions. In August, a spokeswoman for the Illinois governor said in a statement, “Iran remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and Illinois law would not prevent the implementation of the nuclear agreement now under congressional review. Illinois taxpayers should not be asked to subsidize Iranian terrorism.”

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According to an earlier Bloomberg report, President Obama himself acknowledged that while Iran was complying with the “letter” of the JCPOA, it was not upholding the “spirit” of the agreement. “When they launched ballistic missiles with slogans calling for the destruction of Israel, that makes businesses nervous,” he said, while addressing a summit on nuclear weapons in Washington. “There is some geopolitical risk that is heightened when they see that taking place.”

Illinois is one of some two dozen states that have laws sanctioning Iran. While state governments are not legally required to change their laws (yet), State Department spokesman John Kirby told Bloomberg View that the government’s foreign policy shift towards Iran may influence state law at some future time. “As part of the JCPOA, the United States committed to encourage state and local governments to take account of the changes in US policy as a result of the JCPOA, which could impact state and local laws and regulations,” Kirby said.

The Bloomberg View report said that the recent move to influence state law by the Obama administration constitutes a subtle warning to the heads of each state of the State Department’s “leverage.” A 2000 Supreme Court ruling cited by the report saw the overturning of Massachusetts sanctions against Burma because it “interfered with the president’s constitutional authority to conduct foreign policy.” Current state sanctions and divestment policies against Iran, the report said, may be challenged in the future as unconstitutional for obstructing the implementation of federal foreign policy.  

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