Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz praised President Donald Trump on Friday for issuing a second round of sanctions against Iran, but they urged the White House to impose “maximum pressure” by going even further.
The Office of the Press Secretary announced earlier Friday that all of the sanctions lifted under the Obama administration would be reimposed, targeting industries critical to the Iranian economy.
“On Nov. 5th, the United States will reimpose sanctions that were lifted as part of the nuclear deal on Iran’s energy, shipbuilding, shipping, and banking sectors,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a press conference.
Trump has been promulgating a hard-lined message of non-compromise by elevating tension on Tehran, but the administration’s newly declared sanctions seemingly fail to reach the desired level of a zero-tolerance policy, the Republicans charge.
Pompeo noted that eight countries will be given waivers for the energy-related sanctions. The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) will also not immediately be sanctioned. SWIFT is a standardized messaging network between financial institutions that enables banks to securely transmit information. Iran would be unable to receive payments for its oil if its banks are not part of SWIFT.
Cruz and Rubio took issue with both the waivers and SWIFT’s exemption.
“It is important to ensure that the final policy imposes maximum pressure on Iran,” Cruz, of Texas, responded. “Waivers that allow our allies and adversaries to enrich the regime by importing Iranian oil or to bolster Iran’s nuclear program through civil-nuclear cooperation should be sharply limited, and ultimately eliminated.”
Rubio, of Florida, echoed Cruz’s sentiments in a press release, insisting that more must be done to pressure SWIFT into cutting ties with the Central Bank of Iran and other sanctioned banks in the country. (RELATED: US Allows Some Countries To Keep Buying Iranian Oil)
“Sanctions waivers being given to key purchasers of Iranian oil, most alarmingly China, give Iran a financial reprieve, and should be eliminated as soon as possible,” said Rubio. “I also urge the United States not to waive any sanctions aimed at penalizing foreign individuals, entities, or governments engaged in civil nuclear cooperation with Iran.”
“Maximum pressure means not only restoring all of the sanctions measures that President Obama had wrongly suspended under the flawed Iran nuclear deal, but also going further to expand sanctions on the regime in Tehran,” he continued.
While the Trump administration cannot directly restrict SWIFT, based in Belgium, from working with Iranian financial institutions, the United States does have the ability to impose sanctions on members of SWIFT’s board, which includes top U.S. bank heads.
Cruz and Rubio, along with 14 of their Republican colleagues, wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in August demanding that all ties between Iran and the SWIFT system be severed. Cruz also sponsored legislation requiring the Trump administration to impose sanctions on SWIFT if it failed to suspend Iran.
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