On December 15, 2016, the White House Press Secretary released a statement that President Obama would allow the Iran Sanctions Extension Act (H.R. 6297) to become law, but that the President declined to sign it. This bill extends the current Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) through December 31, 2026 and passed Congress with overwhelming support, passing the House 419-1 and the Senate 99-0. The Administration, however, made clear that it did not believe an extension of the ISA was necessary and that the United States maintains the ability to enforce sanctions outside the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and to reimpose sanctions (“snapback”) if Iran were to fail to meet its JCPOA commitments.

Tehran has criticized the extension, but the Administration stressed that an extension of the ISA is “entirely consistent” with the JCPOA, as it is currently in place and was in place when the JCPOA was originally negotiated. Following the White House announcement, Secretary Kerry released a statement also underlining the United States’ commitment to upholding the JCPOA. The State Department has the authority to waive relevant sanctions as part of the JCPOA, and those waivers have not expired. Nevertheless, Secretary Kerry renewed the existing ISA waivers “to ensure maximum clarity.” Both the White House and State Department emphasized the importance of the JCPOA above all else, concluding that, “The JCPOA makes our nation, and the entire world, safer by verifiably ensuring Iran cannot develop a nuclear weapon.”