Congress slams Tillerson for closing sanctions office

WASHINGTON – In a bipartisan rebuke of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, 27 members of Congress are urging the State Department to preserve the office of the Coordinator for Sanctions Policy. According to the letter first obtained by Jewish Insider, the lawmakers note that restoring the office “would also demonstrate this administration’s commitment to a comprehensive and coordinated interagency sanctions policy.”

On October 26, Foreign Policy reported that Tillerson scraped the office that oversees sanctions policy, which has previously been headed by a senior Ambassador-ranked diplomat with at least five supporting staff members. The former Exxon CEO has made budgetary austerity a top priority cutting over half of the State Department’s Special Envoys including envoys for climate change and LGBT rights.  

Authored by Representatives Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY), the letter emphasizes the importance of U.S. sanctions policy as a means of imposing pressure on adversaries. “Right now, we need stronger sanctions to increase pressure on Iran, the world’s leading sponsor of terror; Russia, which seeks to undermine western democracies; and North Korea, a reckless, existential threat to the United States. That’s why it’s irrational for the State Department to eliminate the Coordinator for Sanctions Policy.” Gottheimer said.

Reps. Peter King (R-NY), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), and Jacky Rosen (D-NJ) have also co-signed the letter.

The closing of the office comes at a particularly sensitive time as the Trump administration missed a key October 1 deadline to implement new sanctions against Russia passed by Congress earlier this year.

“The Coordinator for Sanctions Policy has played a critical role in implementing sanctions on bad actors in the international community, and it is important this office remain intact to continue enforcing tough international sanctions to protect our national security.” Stefanik added.

Bipartisan Letter to Sec. Tillerson Re Sanctions Coordinator FINAL by Jacob Kornbluh on Scribd

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