Administration: Trust us with Iran sanctions

President Obama's top sanctions official vowed Wednesday not to let up the pressure, as the U.S. pursues a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran.

In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, Treasury Under Secretary David Cohen argued that the sanctions relief agreed to last month is “economically insignificant.” He said Iran's economy shrank by more than 5 percent last year, and the total sanctions relief amounts to less than $7 billion — a fraction of the $30 billion Iran stands to lose over the next six months in oil sales revenue alone because of sanctions.

“As the principal U.S. official charged with crafting and enforcing our sanctions program, I am confident that the sanctions pressure on Iran will continue to mount,” Cohen wrote. “Iran will be even deeper in the hole six months from now, when the deal expires, than it is today.”

The op-ed is part of a concerted effort to get Congress to back off of new sanctions while the administration negotiates a final deal with its five international partners and Iran. Secretary of State John Kerry testified before a skeptical House Foreign Affairs panel Tuesday that passing new sanctions now could derail diplomatic negotiations and undermine international support for sanctions.

Cohen said his agency could be trusted to continue targeting Iran's energy and banking sectors over the next six months. He said the Treasury Department has identified and sanctioned front companies facilitating Iran's nuclear and missile programs more than 600 times over the past few years and would continue to do so “unabated.”

“Sanctions gave Iran a powerful incentive to accept this first-step deal, and they will be key to negotiating the comprehensive resolution that ensures Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon,” Cohen said. “Now is no time to let up — and we won’t.”

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