US treasury secretary warns against overuse of Iran sanctions

Jack Lew says too many restrictions on nations could undermine American leadership position in global economy

Jack Lew with President Barack Obama in the White House ( AP/Susan Walsh, File)
Jack Lew with President Barack Obama in the White House ( AP/Susan Walsh, File)

US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warned Wednesday against the overuse of financial sanctions against other nations and said the US must be prepared to ease the penalties over time if they succeed in changing behavior.

Lew said the United States must guard against the “impulse to reach for sanctions too lightly,” especially in situations where they will have a negligible effect.

“We must be conscious of the risk that overuse of sanctions could undermine our leadership position in the global economy, and the effectiveness of our sanctions themselves,” Lew said in a speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Lew gave his speech about lessons learned through decades of sanctions at the same time that some Republicans in Congress want to keep them in place against Iran over its nuclear program. Last year, the US agreed to ease sanctions against Tehran in exchange for its promise to curtail programs that would allow it to develop nuclear weapons.

“Since the goal of sanctions is to pressure bad actors to change their policy, we must be prepared to provide relief from sanctions when they succeed,” he said. “If we fail to follow through, we undermine our own credibility and damage our ability to use sanctions to drive policy change. … Since Iran has kept its end of the deal, it is our responsibility to uphold ours in both letter and spirit.”

He added that the US continues to enforce sanctions against Iran over its support of terrorism, its missile program and human rights violations.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.

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