As Breitbart News first reported, states have the constitutional authority to retain their existing sanctions against Iran, or even to apply new ones, because President Barack Obama decided to impose the Iran deal as an executive agreement without any federal enabling legislation that would override state laws.
“We will do everything in the world not to support the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism,” said Democrat Dov Hikind, a New York State Assemblyman, speaking to Breitbart News.
Hikind said that while he was “cautiously optimistic” that Congress would have the votes to override President Obama’s expected veto and reject the Iran deal, he was also confident that New York would keep tough sanctions in place against Iran. New York, like 29 other states, has passed divestment laws that prevent the state from investing public funds in Iran.
In addition, New York is one of about a dozen states with laws that prevent the state and local governments from entering into contracts with companies that do extensive business in Iran’s energy sector.
The New York Iran Divestment Act of 2012 requires the state to maintain a blacklist of companies that are excluded. Many of the same companies are specifically granted sanctions relief by the Iran deal, which also provides (p. 15) that the U.S. must “take appropriate steps” to reverse “law[s] at the state or local level” that interfere with “sanctions lifting.”
Hikind told Breitbart News that he was confident that the Governor Andrew Cuomo would not yield in the face of pressure from the Obama administration. (The governor’s office did not return a request for comment. A spokesperson from the New York Department of Financial Services told Breitbart News: “We have a general policy of not commenting on ongoing enforcement matters.”) Hikind added that sanctions could be dropped when the Iranian regime had changed significantly, such that it no longer supported terrorism against the U.S. and Israel.
California is also unlikely to drop its sanctions against Iran, according to Republican Assemblyman Joel Anderson of Alpine, who introduced the Public Divest from Iran Act, which was signed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2007. The law “requires that two conditions are met before we can resume investment,” Anderson told Breitbart News via e-mail on Monday. “Neither have been met to date.”
Those two conditions, according to the bill’s text, are 1) that “Iran is removed from the United States Department of State’s list of countries that have been determined to repeatedly provide support for acts of international terrorism,” and 2) that “the President of the United States determines and certifies to the appropriate committee of the Congress of the United States that Iran has ceased its efforts to design, develop, manufacture, or acquire a nuclear explosive device or related materials and technology.” Neither of those conditions is likely to be met soon.
State sanctions against Iran were passed over the past several years to complement and expand federal and international sanctions. They enjoyed strong bipartisan support in many cases, building on public opposition to the Iranian regime. The California law, for example, passed the State Assembly and the State Senate unanimously.
That is why despite pressure from the Obama administration to back the Iran deal, New York and California are just two of many states that are unlikely to comply, though both are reliably “blue” and led by Democrats at every level of state government. (A recent CNN poll also shows that the majority of Americans want Congress to reject the Iran deal.)
It is possible that resistance by the states could scuttle the agreement, since it specifies that Iran will treat “an imposition of new nuclear-related sanctions, as grounds to cease performing its commitments.” As constitutional lawyers David B. Rivkin and Lee A. Casey argue in the Journal, states have the power to add new sanctions, thanks to the “lawless” way in which President Obama has structured the Iran deal. And as law professor William Jacobson argues, states ought to push back: “In opposing the deal, an all of the above strategy is warranted.”