US senate passed extension of sanctions on Iran. Assume that it become a law.
Is it against JCPOA?
What is arguments of both sides?

  • 2
    Is the JCPOA a ratified treaty? Commented Dec 2, 2016 at 14:33

4 Answers 4


TL;DR: No.

What happened in the bill mentioned in this question is that the authority for sanctions was extended. This was consistent with the deal, which said that if Iran were to break the deal, sanctions would snap back. If the sanctions were unauthorized, they couldn't snap back until the authorization was passed again. As such, one could argue that the deal required an extension of sanction authority so as to enable the snap back provision.

It's worth noting that Barack Obama signed the bill under discussion. Source: CNN. Since Obama supports the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action, it would be inconsistent for him to sign a bill that counteracted the deal. He could have vetoed the bill.


The new Senate laws do not conflict (for now) with the JCPOA.

First of all, what the Senate passed is a law that allows the POTUS to enforce the sanctions. If the POTUS or Secretary of State want to reenact these sanctions, he no longer needs the Senate to agree, but it remains at his discretion.

It seems mostly a just a declaration of intentions, since it is difficult to foresee a situation in which the POTUS wants to put forward sanctions against Iran and the US Senate prevents him from doing that. Just a "friendly" reminder to Teheran about the "stick" of sanctions, and a way of political gesturing while allowing the JCPOA to continue.

It is worth noting:

a) As part of the JCPOA some sanctions have been lifted but there is still a control of Iran imports, requiring the UN Security Council agreement for the acquisition of heavy military hardware.

b) The USA continues to maintain sanctions against Iran. But now it just affects direct relationships between Iran and the USA, and third parties (v.g. EU, Russia, China) may trade with Iran (as long as not with items forbidden by the JCPOA) without being targeted by USA sanctions.

c) In a more general tone, as a sovereign country the USA is free to decide to which countries it wants to trade and with which countries it does not want to trade. The JCPOA does not force the USA to accept trade with Iran, so any sanction to that effect will not conflict with the JCPOA.

  • Also noteworthy is the fact that JCPOA was not a US/Iran agreement, but a multilateral agreement. If the USA says "No more oil sales for you." and France, UK, Germany all say "we'll still buy oil from you," then it's not like the USA unilaterally imposing sanctions is really doing much of anything, unless we were a disproportionate share of their sales. Same with the USA selling products- if they can get products from other suppliers, our sanctions don't necessarily have much teeth to them. So Iran still has an incentive to hold up its end of the agreement, lest all the nations turn on them. Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 19:15

Iran is subject to Western sanctions for multiple reasons, including state-sponsored terrorism and violations of the NPT. JCPOA affects only sanctions that were introduced in relation to nuclear proliferation.

  • 7
    You could improve this answer a lot by quoting the relevant sections of the JCPOA and of the now renewed sanctions to show that they do not conflict with each other.
    – Philipp
    Commented Dec 2, 2016 at 15:20

Yes, the law passed - even if only empowering the president to impose sanctions - violates article viii of the Preamble of the JCPOA, which states (emphasis mine):

The E3/EU+3 and Iran commit to implement this JCPOA in good faith and in a constructive atmosphere, based on mutual respect, and to refrain from any action inconsistent with the letter, spirit and intent of this JCPOA that would undermine its successful implementation.

  • So? That "binds" only the US president, since Congress never ratified the treaty. And the USA have left the treaty. Commented May 18, 2018 at 21:15
  • @MartinSchröder: 1. This question is from before the US left. 2. I didn't say the congress' action was inconsistent with the ratification, but it is a violation of the treaty by the US as a whole (unless you consider the treaty not to have gone into effect because of the lack of ratification).
    – einpoklum
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 21:31

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