Trump’ GOP Preparing to Work with Trump to Squeeze Iran
By Josh Rogin
November 10, 2016
Republicans in Congress who vigorously opposed Donald
Trump’s run for president are now preparing to work with the incoming Trump
administration on a number of foreign policy and national security issues where
their policies overlap. First on their agenda is drastically increasing
sanctions on Iran.
“There are several issues that I can work with the new
president on, the Iran deal being number one,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham
(R-S.C.), who voted for independent candidate Evan McMullin, told me. “Trump
has been right about the Iran deal, it needs to be renegotiated. I’m going to
create leverage for him.”
On the first day Congress is back in session, Graham said
he and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) will
reintroduce the Iran
Ballistic Missile Sanctions Act, which was first introduced by outgoing Sen.
Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.).
The legislation would expand the non-nuclear related
sanctions on Iran to include entire sectors of the Iranian economy that aid in
Iran’s ballistic missile program. It would also sanction any Iranian companies
or organizations that support the missile program.
The strategy is to tighten the noose on Iran such that if
and when President Trump tries to renegotiate the Iran deal, as he promised to
do on the campaign trail, the Iranians will be under more pressure to come to
“I want to help Trump on Iran. One way is to reimpose
sanctions outside the conduct of the nuclear deal,” said Graham. “I hope
this will help President Trump get a better deal.”
Increasing sanctions on Iran is only one area where
Republicans who opposed Trump previously are planning to work with the new
administration. Defense hawks in both chambers also agree with Trump’s pledge
to get rid of limits on military spending imposed by previous budget deals, move
Israel policy to be more friendly to the government of Benjamin Netanyahu and
roll back the Obama administration’s moves to normalize relations with Cuba.
But the Iran issue is the most likely space for
cooperation, because most of the preparatory work has already been done and
because the effort might get some Democratic support.
In July, just before leaving town, the House Republican
three Iran sanctions bills that are primed for quick passage in the
Senate. The main bill, sponsored by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy
(R-Calif.), would impose new sanctions on Iran and any country that supports its
illicit activities in response to Iran’s continued development and testing of
its ballistic missile program, its support for terrorism and its ongoing
violations of human rights.
If Hillary Clinton had won, there was also widespread
expectation that her administration would have increased pressure on Iran
due to what many Clinton advisers saw as Iran’s increasingly provocative and
aggressive behavior outside the nuclear realm. Some senior Democrats, including
incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y), also support new
measures on Iran.
But the Clinton team was planning to ramp up sanctions in a
way carefully calibrated to keep the Iran deal in place, while the Trump team
has no desire to thread that needle.
Last month, Wendy Sherman, a top Clinton campaign adviser
who was also the State Department’s lead negotiator for the Iran deal, said
that if Trump were elected he would face difficulties trying to unravel the
“If a president wanted to rip it up on day one, there are
certainly things he could do. But it would be hard because we have partners in
this endeavor and they wouldn’t be so happy about us doing so,” she said at
the Meridian Global Leadership Summit.
But experts said that the Trump administration and the
Republican-led Congress are determined to move ahead even without the support of
allies that are also a party to the Iran deal.
Even if the Trump administration keeps the Iran deal in
place, the Obama administration’s effort to encourage Iran toward better
behavior through positive engagement is now over and the United States is going
back to a policy of pressure using several tools, including the threat of
military force, said Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for
Defense of Democracies.
“This election is a game changer with respect to the Iran
policy, from a policy that was paralyzed by the Iran deal to a president who is
more willing to use all the elements of American power,” he said. “The
honeymoon is over.”