Sanctions have constricted Iran's ability to procure equipment for its nuclear and missile programs and to import advanced conventional weaponry. However, the sanctions have not halted Iran's provision of arms to the Assad government in Syria, the Iraqi government and related Shiite militias, Houthi rebels in Yemen, or to other pro-Iranian factions in the Middle East. Nor have sanctions altered Iran's repression of dissent or monitoring of the Internet.
Under the JPA, the United States has provided Iran with some sanctions relief through presidential waivers of several U.S. sanctions laws and authority under several executive orders. The core of the sanctions relief is $700 million per month in access to hard currency from oil sales, plus about $65 million per month in additional hard currency provided to educational institutions for Iranians studying abroad. The JPA caps Iran's oil exports at about 1mbd but does not cap exports to its crude oil customers of oil products such as condensates, and Iran appears to have increasing exports of condensates to partly compensate for the limitations on crude oil sales. The JPA suspends sanctions on Iran's auto manufacturing sector and on its sales of petrochemicals, although available data indicates activity in these sectors does not appear to be producing nearly as much revenue as was estimated. And, the fall in oil prices since June 2014 has introduced additional uncertainty to Iran's economy, to the point where many experts assess that Iranian leaders urgently need a comprehensive nuclear deal to achieve the economic improvement demanded by the population.
By all accounts, a comprehensive nuclear agreement, if reached, will entail significant easing of U.S. and third country sanctions on Iran-particularly those sanctions that reduced Iran's oil exports and limit its access to the international financial system. The Administration has said that substantial sanctions relief under a comprehensive deal would be provided, but would be implemented stepwise as Iran fulfills the terms of an agreement. The Administration has asserted that, in the event of an agreement, it will act on its own authority to suspend most sanctions on Iran and, after testing Iran's compliance over a period of time, work with Congress on long-term sanctions relief. Some in Congress are proposing additional sanctions if diplomacy fails, but the Administration strongly opposes enacting additional sanctions while talks are ongoing. The Administration asserts that doing so will fracture the coalition negotiating with Iran and cause Iran to walk away from the talks. See also CRS Report RL32048, Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses, by Kenneth Katzman; CRS Report R43311, Iran: U.S. Economic Sanctions and the Authority to Lift Restrictions, by Dianne E. Rennack; and CRS Report R43492, Achievements of and Outlook for Sanctions on Iran, by Kenneth Katzman.
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