|Bill Clinton, AIPAC urge delay on Iran sanctions||
TEHRAN – The White House’s push to delay an Iran sanctions vote got a big boost this week when both Bill Clinton and the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC urged the Senate to hold off as diplomatic talks take shape, Politico reported on Thursday.
Together, Clinton and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s support of President Barack Obama’s position gives the White House key allies as it seeks to avoid a battle with Congress on the sensitive issue in an election year.
Attending a private Senate Democratic retreat Wednesday night, Clinton urged lawmakers to allow negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program time to play out before moving forward on a bill to impose tough sanctions on the country, according to several people who attended the meeting.
The White House has been warning lawmakers that passing sanctions legislation will blow up the sensitive diplomatic talks aimed at resolving Iran’s nuclear issue. Hillary Clinton, too, is siding with Obama over the matter. A spokesman for the former president declined to comment.
On Thursday, following a lengthy, nuanced floor speech by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez about ongoing talks with Iran, AIPAC said in a statement that it believed now is not the time to move forward on a sanctions bill that both Iran and Obama have said would disrupt fragile diplomatic negotiations.
“We agree with the Chairman that stopping the Iranian nuclear program should rest on bipartisan support and that there should not be a vote at this time on the measure. We remain committed to working with the Administration and the bipartisan leadership in Congress to ensure that the Iran nuclear program is dismantled,” AIPAC said in a statement.
Menendez did not explicitly say on the Senate floor that he did not want an immediate vote, though he did warn against the Senate’s posture toward Iran becoming a “partisan process trying to force a vote on a national security matter before its appropriate time,” referring to a fresh Republican push for a vote on Menendez’s bill on Thursday.
Led by Sens. Mark Kirk and Menendez, a large bipartisan group of senators has been pushing legislation to drastically limit Iran’s ability to export petroleum if the Islamic Republic breaks the conditions of an interim agreement or abandons a permanent nuclear deal with global powers. It also would require a dramatic rollback of Iran’s nuclear program as a condition for further lifting existing sanctions.
But the White House is increasingly urging Senate Democrats who back the bill to avoid acting until after the six-months of negotiations play out. After Obama made a similar case during his State of the Union address, several Democrats who back the sanctions bill — like Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware — privately urged party leaders to postpone a vote for now.
“I think most of us feel these negotiations should have a chance,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said Thursday.
As Democrats toned down their rhetoric, Republicans have increasingly pushed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to schedule a vote on the issue, including in a Thursday letter to the Nevada Democrat, which was signed by 42 GOP senators.
“Now we have come to a crossroads,” the Republicans wrote in the letter spearheaded by Kirk. “Will the Senate allow Iran to keep its … nuclear infrastructure in place… or will the Senate stand firm on behalf of the American people and insist that any final agreement with Iran must dismantle the (country’s) nuclear infrastructure…?”
Reid lashed out at the Republicans when asked about the issue on Thursday.
“It’s not a partisan issue,” Reid said. “It’s a serious, serious situation. For me to receive a totally partisan letter, we should not make this a partisan issue, and that’s what 42 Republicans have done. And I think it’s wrong.”
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