The controversial Iranian sanctions deal announced in Geneva last Sunday remains to be implemented at least so far as the relaxation of sanctions is concerned. Relaxation will not be easy because the easing of sanctions commitments are somewhat vague and the existing sanctions are embedded in a complex web of U.S., EU, Swiss, Japanese and other regulations, executive orders, rulings, interpretations and statutes that defy or are immune from easy amendment.

The chances that the U.S. Congress will ease the way by amending statutory provisions imposing sanctions are practically nil. Not nil is the risk that Congress will impose additional sanctions despite the agreement.

Existing laws constituting the international sanctions regime include:

  • Those described in a U.S. Treasury Department listing of over a hundred U.S. executive orders, statutes, regulations, specific and general licenses, frequently asked questions and other guidance;
  • Dozens of EU Council Decisions and Implementing Regulations.
  • Numerous other statutes, regulations and directives enacted or issued by other countries in response to UN resolutions or otherwise.

While it is clear from a 30,000 foot level which sectors will be permitted limited reengagement with Iran - those in the petroleum, civil aviation, automotive, food, agricultural, medical and humanitarian, insurance and transportation sectors are at the forefront - it is and will continue to be unclear as to what exactly is permitted or tolerated until officially applicable rules are changed.

In the meanwhile, those potentially affected should either sit tight and keep their powder dry, gear up for the changes that are coming if they are in the zone of affected industries or involve themselves in the inevitable lobbying process for regulatory or statutory changes that may affect what they can do.

The fact that the agreement is only for the next six months does not make this easy, but to the swift and not faint of heart belong the spoils.

Until changes are made, however, all must comply with existing law. The Administration has vowed continued vigorous enforcement in part out of political necessity given the deal’s many skeptics.

Congress and others will undoubtedly be watching.