Iran Threatens to Renew its Nuclear Program After US Congress Vote to Extend Sanctions

US House of representatives voted on Tuesday in favor of extending sanctions against Iran

The Iran deal, signed in January this year between Iran and six other world powers – including the US – saw many economic sanctions against Iran suspended or relaxed, with Iran obliging to stop developing its nuclear program.

The Iran deal has drawn heavy criticism both from Democrats and Republicans, while the President-elect, Donald Trump described it as disastrous.

With the US House of Representatives vote to extend standing sanctions against Iran, and the incoming Trump administration, it seems realistic to say that the Iran deal will come under increased scrutiny.

Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said on Thursday that

This bipartisan bill, which provides the basis for any sanctions which may be re-imposed on Iran, is critical given the belligerent behavior exhibited by Tehran since the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

I expect we’ll pass it on an overwhelming bipartisan basis here too.

Commenting the extension of sanctions, The Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Ben Cardin said,

Congress is prepared to take a stronger role” to ensure Iran complies with the terms of the Iran nuclear deal and to respond to Iran’s “non-nuclear nefarious actions.

Cardin also said that the incoming president should consult with the ‘coalition partners’ and ‘the group involved with the JCPOA’ to,

Go talk to our European allies, because they are more aligned with us. Talk to the French, talk to the Germans, talk to the Brits. Then talk to Russia, China and ultimately Iran.

Reacting to the vote in US Congress to extend sanctions, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani gave orders to Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization a three month deadline to come up with a plan for nuclear-powered ships.

According to Iran’s state television

The measures were warranted in light of the United States’ foot-dragging in fulfilling its commitments under the multilateral nuclear deal … and the recent ratification of anti-Iran legislation in the U.S. Congress.

Iranian officials have said that the vote to extend sanctions is a breach of the January agreement. Rohani also said Iran will make a legal complaint to the committee overseeing the agreement.

If the agreement is breached, Iran might renew its nuclear program, which might also lead to increased tensions between Iran and Israel. The vote in Congress has also demonstrated the dissatisfaction of the US political establishment with the Iran deal.

Trump’s lack of coherent foreign policy strategy could damage the already fragile structure of international relations. If Trump remains true to his word, his new administration could adopt a policy of antagonizing and isolating Iran, a strategy that has proven to be ineffective in the past.

The Iranian regime has extended its alliance with Russia in Syria, while remaining relatively stable and using the nuclear agreement to revive the economy.

Despite the apparent intention to relax tensions with Russia, Trump might realize that Putin is not willing to renounce his strategic alignment with Iran in the Middle East, and this could present a significant challenge for Trump and future US foreign policy in the region.