For Iran sanctions expert Mark Dubowitz, this recommendation is already red flag as it would likely still allow anti-sanctions P5+1 members like Russia and China to delay or even veto a snapback, making it something other than an automatic punishment.
"I don't think the Russians spent 70 years seriously protecting their veto power at the UNSC to now all of a sudden in any way surrender it to any Western-designed mechanism," Dubowitz, Foundation for Defense of Democracies executive director, told Business Insider. "
"You have to assume that if the Russians agree to this it's because they figured out a way to game it in order to protect their interests ... and to ensure that this doesn't become a precedent for any future snapback sanctions regime."
Dubowitz sees the snapback compromise as a way of getting around possible divisions between the US and its partners, while making it seem as if the US can still pressure Iran.
But Dubowitz doesn't think it accomplishes either, calling it an "illusion."
"It's an attempt by the administration to persuade Congress and the American people that they believe in the use of economic coercion, when snapback would run against China and Russia at the Security Council, and it would run up the against the wall of the marketplace," he said.
The wall of the marketplace is based on the idea that Iran is likeliest to cheat on an agreement at a time when its economy recovers from the worst effects of the current round of sanctions. At that point, international banks and business interests possibly belonging to P5+1 or EU countries will have reentered the Iranian market — meaning that in a snapback scenario, the P5+1 would be effectively sanctioning their own companies.
And this would happen at a point, years after the deal is signed, when the Iranian economy would be equipped to absorb the blow of any sanctions snapback anyway.
"In the early stages, if Iran engages in a substantial violation, I see sanctions snapback as potentially a viable instrument of peaceful coercion to enforce the deal," Dubowitz says. But he doesn't think snapback will have much sting 10 or even 5 years into an agreement that's meant to permanently prevent Iran from going nuclear.
"The real test is if a snapback sanction is viable is if a US president is willing to snapback sanctions against major European financial institutions and energy and industrial companies in a scenario where the Europeans disagree with a US president over how significant an Iranian violation has been," Dubowitz said.
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