|U.S. senators working on Iran sanctions bill: report||
TEHRAN – A bipartisan juggernaut of senior senators is spending the remaining week of the Thanksgiving recess forging agreement on a new sanctions bill that the senators hope to pass before breaking again for Christmas, the Washington Post reported on Monday.
The administration believes the legislation could scuttle the interim nuclear agreement reached with Iran on November 23 and derail upcoming negotiations on a permanent deal — scheduled for completion in six months — meant to resolve the dispute over Iran’s nuclear work.
“If you want to hold our feet to the fire on the final deal, fine, do that,” a senior administration official said. “If people have concerns about elements of a final agreement, come in and tell us… But that is a separate discussion from passing a sanctions bill in the middle of negotiations.”
The administration contends that new sanctions not only would violate the terms of the interim agreement — which temporarily freezes parts of Iran’s nuclear program and modestly eases existing sanctions — but also could divide the United States from its international negotiating partners across the table from Iran and give the upper hand to Iran in upcoming talks.
“The purpose of sanctions from the outset was to create a dynamic so that you can get a change in policy from the Iranians,” David Cohen, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in an interview. “It’s not sanctions for the sake of having sanctions.”
The White House has organized a full-court press between now and the Senate’s return December 9 to persuade lawmakers not to act. In addition to briefings for anyone who wants one, Obama, Secretary of State John F. Kerry, national security adviser Susan E. Rice and other top officials are making personal calls. Kerry sent a video to his former Capitol Hill colleagues explaining the deal, “because some people are putting out some misinformation on it.”
On Friday, the National Security Council distributed to reporters a 25-page compendium of what it called “welcoming” comments about the agreement from lawmakers, foreign policy experts and editorials. A separate 19 pages listed foreign governments, from Afghanistan and Albania to the United Arab Emirates, that have said anything remotely positive.
Nathan Diament, executive director for public policy at the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, said he listened in on three White House conference calls last week — two to pro-Israel groups and one to a broader collection of faith-based groups — during which officials stated their case.
“This is going to make the president’s Hanukkah party very interesting,” said Diament, whose group favors new sanctions. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee has declared passage of a sanctions bill its top current priority.
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