Download eBook for Free

FormatFile SizeNotes
PDF file 0.4 MB

Use Adobe Acrobat Reader version 10 or higher for the best experience.

The president has extensive authority under the law to provide sanctions relief to Iran as part of a comprehensive nuclear agreement. Nevertheless, Congress can take a range of steps to facilitate, hinder, or even block the executive branch's efforts to relieve economic sanctions. It is therefore important to understand Congress' options for shaping the implementation of a nuclear agreement with Iran and to assess the likelihood and impacts of each. On one end of the spectrum of options available to Congress, lawmakers could support a deal's implementation by removing statutory sanctions; on the other, it could withhold funds needed to execute the deal or nullify it through legislation. However, Congress is most likely to take a middle-of-the-road approach that enables the administration to provide sufficient sanctions relief to appeal to Tehran. This approach could involve taking no legislative action at all, which would enable the deal to be implemented as agreed; imposing limits on the president's authority to waive or suspend statutory sanctions; or passing new sanctions designed to punish Iranian non-compliance. In the wake of a diplomatic agreement that includes promises of sanctions relief, new U.S. sanctions would likely scuttle the deal, drive Iran to resume high-level enrichment, undermine global support for sanctions, and leave the United States internationally isolated. As a result, any new sanctions imposed by Congress will likely take effect only if Iran is found to have reneged on its commitments under a deal.

This commentary is part of the RAND expert insight series. RAND Expert Insights present perspectives on timely policy issues. All RAND Expert Insights undergo peer review to ensure high standards for quality and objectivity.

This document and trademark(s) contained herein are protected by law. This representation of RAND intellectual property is provided for noncommercial use only. Unauthorized posting of this publication online is prohibited; linking directly to this product page is encouraged. Permission is required from RAND to reproduce, or reuse in another form, any of its research documents for commercial purposes. For information on reprint and reuse permissions, please visit

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.