DeFazio’s Disregard for International Law

At DeFazio’s Eugene town hall last Thursday I informed him that the UN World Court has ordered the US to ease sanctions against Iran, sanctions which trace back to him, and asked, “will you commit to only supporting sanctions that have prior UN Security Council approval?”  I thought this such a reasonable request that he, or anyone else, would simply acknowledge the World Court ruling, say he would consider my request, and just move on to the next question. Regrettably, DeFazio chose another path.

He begins by attempting to correct me by saying, “Well actually the sanctions that were imposed under the Obama administration did have United Nations approval.” It appears my entire point went over DeFazio’s head. Of course the sanctions prior to the Iran Nuclear Deal in 2015 were approved by multiple UNSC resolutions, and of course when the UNSC endorsed the deal with Resolution 2231, it discontinued all of them by directing, “the termination of the provisions of previous Security Council resolutions on the Iranian nuclear issue.” This was the whole point of the deal, to exchange discontinuing sanctions for certain controls on Iran’s nuclear program. 

DeFazio, who supported these sanctions when they had UNSC approval and opposes them now when they do not, fails to understand that provisions which require UN approval in order for sanctions to be implemented would have allowed the sanctions when he wanted them and blocked them when he doesn’t. Not only would such provisions in US sanctions prevent someone like Trump from just turning around and reimposing sanctions as he has done, but they would prevent the US from violating international law. Former UN sanctions expert, Alfred de Zayas explains, “that only those sanctions that are imposed by the Security Council under Chapter VII can be considered legal.” 

DeFazio goes on to explain why he supported the sanctions and then says, “but those were not the punitive sanctions of today.” What DeFazio calls “not punitive sanctions,” UN News calls “economic warfare.” How do we know that UN News was referring to the same sanctions that DeFazio supported? The World Court ruling says exactly that – the case that Iran brought to the court and the ruling of the court were specifically concerning the sanctions announced in the May 8, 2018 White House memorandum. The memorandum announced the US is “restoring” sanctions and “taking steps to re-impose all United States sanctions lifted or waived in connection with the [deal].” It goes on to specifically list The Iran Sanctions Act and the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act as the sanctions to be re-imposed. DeFazio voted for both. That DeFazio would claim “but those were not the punitive sanctions of today,” shows that it is unlikely he has ever looked at the World Court ruling yet has the hardheadedness to argue about what it says.

DeFazio then says, “unfortunately Trump has voided that agreement and imposed even more onerous sanctions than before. I have opposed that and the House has opposed that.” Before Trump withdrew from the deal by re-imposing sanctions in 2018, DeFazio and the House voted for the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act in 2017 which “directs the President to impose sanctions against Iran’s ballistic missile or weapons of mass destruction programs,” among other sanctions. 

This seems a clear violation of article 26 of the Iran Nuclear Deal which states:

“The U.S. Administration, acting consistent with the respective roles of the President and the Congress, will refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions. Iran has stated that it will treat such… an imposition of new nuclear-related sanctions, as grounds to cease performing its commitments under this JCPOA in whole or in part.”

So, while he is claiming that he and the House opposed Trump voiding of the agreement by imposing more sanctions, DeFazio and the House voted for a bill that directed Trump to void the agreement by imposing more sanctions. Even John Kerry was warning Congress against adding these sanctions and the obvious consequences.

DeFazio also cosponsored a resolution which was agreed to in the House two months after the World Court ruling. This resolution may not be a direct violation of the Iran Nuclear Deal but it goes a long way towards showing DeFazio’s disregard for international law. Neither this resolution or the 2017 bill were approved by the UNSC and therefore illegal under international law. 

Hopefully DeFazio will simply listen to his constituents next time rather than make such a defensive and inaccurate display.