Congress, White House Set for Iran-Sanctions Showdown

Distrustful of Iran, both parties on the Hill are pushing new sanctions that would start in six months, or sooner if Tehran breaks the deal. The White House fears a self-fulfilling prophecy

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Pete Souza / The White House / Reuters

President Barack Obama talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during a phone call in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington on Sept. 27, 2013

As the Obama Administration basked in the afterglow Sunday of a historic agreement to delay the Iranian nuclear program, its potential unraveling was quickly taking shape on Capitol Hill.

Hawkish Democrats and Republicans denounced or expressed skepticism about the deal reached early Sunday morning in Geneva. The deal commits the U.S. and its allies to easing sanctions on the Iranian economy in exchange for Iran’s promise to pause its nuclear program and give international inspectors greater access to it. Both sides agreed to abide by those terms for six months.

Lawmakers in Washington, however, appear poised to break that deal by pushing for additional sanctions on the Iranian regime. The White House is warning that new congressional sanctions could jeopardize a fragile agreement that it says provides the best shot at peacefully keeping Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Even as the Iran negotiations closed in on the temporary agreement last week, Obama was already fending off a bipartisan sanctions push on the Hill. On Tuesday the President hosted a bipartisan group of Senators to lobby them against a new round of economic penalties. With an agreement in place but talks on a long-term solution continuing, the White House faces a growing coalition pushing for tougher sanctions now.

(MORE: The Iran Deal: Kerry’s Ordeal, Obama’s Challenge)

In separate statements, top Democratic Senators Charles Schumer and Robert Menendez expressed concern about the agreement inked by Secretary of State John Kerry in Geneva. Speaking late Saturday evening in Washington, Obama issued a terse warning to the legislative branch that new sanctions would undermine the American position. “Now is not the time to move forward on new sanctions,” the President said, “because doing so would derail this promising first step, alienate us from our allies and risk unraveling the coalition that enabled our sanctions to be enforced in the first place.”

But lawmakers and congressional aides in both parties are setting the stage for a new round of sanctions that would be delayed in their effect by six months. “I expect that the forthcoming sanctions legislation to be considered by the Senate will provide for a six-month window to reach a final agreement before imposing new sanctions on Iran, but will at the same time be immediately available should the talks falter or Iran fail to implement or breach the interim agreement,” Menendez said.

Across the Capitol, House Democratic whip Steny Hoyer said Sunday on CBS’s Face the Nation that passing new sanctions with a six-month delay would be the right thing to do. And Republican Senator Mark Kirk said Sunday, “I will continue working with my colleagues to craft bipartisan legislation that will impose tough new economic sanctions if Iran undermines this interim accord or if the dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure is not under way by the end of this six-month period.”

(MORE: Obama Reaches Out to Netanyahu to Ease Concerns About Iran Nuclear Deal)

This approach may be too clever by half, and the White House worries that congressional distrust of Iran would become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The “sword of Damocles” approach would undoubtedly anger Iran, and would potentially nullify the painstaking agreement reached this weekend. “If there are new sanctions, then there is no deal,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told NBC News on Sunday. “It’s very clear. End of the deal. Because of the inability of one party to maintain their side of the bargain.”

Congress doesn’t see it that way. “With this agreement, the role of Congress will shift from bulldog to watchdog,” said a senior Senate aide involved in Iran-sanctions negotiations. “What was to be a new sanctions bill to win Iranian concessions now becomes a Damocles to enforce this agreement and ensure it doesn’t become a never-ending first step. The President should expect bipartisan enforcement legislation on his desk before Christmas.”

The White House worked frantically Sunday to defend the agreement in calls to lawmakers on Capitol Hill. White House principal deputy press secretary Josh Earnest stopped short of issuing a veto threat on new sanctions, but said the long-standing Administration position has been to oppose new sanctions to allow space for the negotiations. “The President has been very clear that he does not believe that Congress should pass additional sanctions at this time,” he told reporters aboard Air Force One. “And that’s something that we’ve been pretty clear on for some time.”

MORE: Israel Renews Warnings of Military Action After Iran Nuclear Deal

86 comments
ThomasHall
ThomasHall

The GOP, who have waged an all-out war to nullify the presidency of Pres. Obama and the Democrats by deliberately sabotaging the weak economy and job growth with an all-time record of  430+ blocked bills, 82 blocked presidential appointments or nearly as many as all blocked appointments total in US history, and their unprecedented use of 60-vote super majority filibusters to block legislation that the public wants like sensible gun control, and will post the worst legislative record of just 55 passed bills of any Congress in history, will continue their efforts against the President to the very last.

Having made an historical breakthrough in over 30 years with negotiations with Iran that allows AEC inspectors in (even Israel will not allow that) without actually lifting the big sanctions that have crippled Iran's economy and driven up inflation, the GOP want to destroy it before peace breaks out in the Middle East.

Recall the GOP's dealings with Iran: Eisenhower installed the murderous dictator the Shah of Iran, later overthrown during the Carter Administration. Reagan made a deal with Ayatollah Khomeini to hold the hostages until after the election which he did and released them just hours after Pres. Reagan gave his inaugural speech. Reagan also was involved in the impeachable Iran-Contra affair and later supported Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran and provided military targeting information that Hussein used to gas the Iranians and Kurds.

GW Bush's invasions of two Muslim nations neither of which actually attacked America brought forward the Iranian extremists that we had had to put up until US sanctions under Pres. Obama crippled their economy and brought a more moderate President into office. In short, Pres. Obama is the first US President to actually deal honestly and openly with Iran taking into consideration the people not just oil resources now, of course, the GOP want to block any success.

A GOP Representative recently suggested instead that tactical nuclear weapons should be used to end Iran's nuclear program as the war-mongering, war=profiteering want to keep their military-industrial-congressional-complex gravy train going..

RobertNguyen
RobertNguyen

Strategy for the President - Be courageous when you know you and Sec. Kerry are correct on the issue. Talk directly to the American people...

TerryClifton02
TerryClifton02

How soon do liberals forget the past. 

"North Korea is starving, just give them billions of dollars and they will be happy, and I will get my Nobel Peace Prize, and my legacy will be restored." Jimmy Carter

"Oops, my bad." Jimmy Carter

Iran has no intentions of ever giving up their nuclear weapons programs. Anyone who thinks otherwise, well you're in need of therapy and medication. The Mullahs are just hard core as the Zionists, and they will get their way. Kerry and Obama are throwing up a smoke screen..Allowing Iran to continue their enrichment process is not a deal, it's exactly what they want..That's like telling your kid that they can continue to skip curfew, but in 6 months, we will have to talk about you skipping curfew..Yep, that makes total sense, right? Historic deal on epic proportions, snicker..I hope they try to sell that with their serious face. Thurston Howell III aka John Kerry is a complete buffoon, great deal you gave Rouhani, what did he give you, 6 pair of sweat socks, and 3 goats?

ricardo_lion
ricardo_lion

@TerryClifton02   Are you really comparing the Iran ruled by medieval Muslim clerics to Israel, the Jewish (Jesus religion), democratic and civilized (no civil war, hanging of gays, women stoning, "honour" killing of girls, cannibalism, etc.) country in the region (0,00000000000000000000000....1% of the ME and far away from obsessed Iran)?

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@TerryClifton02 So what would you have us do Terry? The only alternative to negotiation is invasion. Are you ready to invade and occupy a country of 70 Million? And speaking of the past the main reason they started to accelerate their program is because some clown invaded two of their neighbors and stated that they would be next. Care to remind us on the identity of that clown?

outsider
outsider

Honestly man - short of bombing, or starving them to death, what can the US do, other than this?

First negotiations or deals in 34 years. That iS a good thing.

And sanctions can always come back...

AlphaJuliette
AlphaJuliette

@TerryClifton02 

So what's your plan?  Squeeze Iran even harder?  Get them to capitulate unilaterally?  Hmmmm.....very unlikely.  Typical of human behavior is that when you impose harsher sanctions they will only reinforce their resolve.

A six month time limit isn't unreasonable.  IF Iran balks at any detail of this agreement then all bets can be called off and we can impose those harsher restrictions.  I think this is worth it.

TerryClifton02
TerryClifton02

@mantisdragon91  

First of all, allowing them to continue enrichment process is absolutely dangerous. No one wants another war, but the Iranians gave up nothing in this deal, absolutely nothing, so it was not a deal, but rather a capitulation to the Mullahs. A nuclear Iran is the end game in the Middle East, and every one should know that by now. I would have left the sanctions in place, until they gave up their quest for WW3. 

By the way, they have accelerated their program over the last 6 years, wonder why?   

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@TerryClifton02 @mantisdragon91 They can only enrich to 5% not enough to create weapons. And it isn't Iran that wants WW3 but our evangelicals that think it will bring on the Rapture. Last but not least the reason they have accelerated their program is that GWB invaded countries to the East and West of them and stated and hinted on numerous occasions that they are next.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@TerryClifton02 @AlphaJuliette Squeeze them harder, make the people hate us even more. Because backing a country into a corner always keeps it from being aggressive. As our sanctions on steel did to Japan right before Pearl Harbor.

TerryClifton02
TerryClifton02

@mantisdragon91 @TerryClifton02  

Your obsession with the fanatical religious right has reached the jumping off point. They have absolutely zero sway these days in politics, and you know it. There are 14 states that allow gay marriage, by the way, with more to come. Jerry Falwell is worm dirt, Old man Billy is next, and Pat Robertson is back on television hawking Jesus and prayer cloths. The Mullahs will not stop until they get their nuclear warheads, and lets remember all those U.N. Sanctions that Hussein blew off, leading to his demise, be it under false pretensions. Iran will do whatever Iran wants to do, as long as their religious nut-jobs run the show.  No one I know wants another occupation of a middle east country, but seriously, allowing Iran to continue the enrichment process is absolutely stupid. If I had to choose between allowing disease and starvation to occur in Iran in order to get them to stop their blood feud with Israel, then so be it.

TerryClifton02
TerryClifton02

@mantisdragon91 @TerryClifton02 @AlphaJuliette  

Everyone hates us, and so what? We should know, after all, not only are we spying on our enemies, we spy on our friends. China, France, England, Iran, Iraq, India, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, Somalia, Russia, Germany, and everyone else on the planet hates us, and I'm sure Switzerland hates us as well.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@TerryClifton02 @mantisdragon91 And lets remember that Iraq had no WMDs. Care to guess how long Israel has been telling us Iran will get nukes any day now? Since the 70s. So please lets stop with the crying wolf and lets talk about achieving a reasonable solution. Only one country in the region actually has secretly developed nukes and is currently occupying foreign soil. Care to guess which country it is?

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@TerryClifton02 @mantisdragon91 So Israel occupying the Golan heights is the same as us occupying territory we claimed 150 years ago? And if you don't see Israel threatening their neighbors what do you call their recent air strikes in Syria and threats to bomb Iran?

TerryClifton02
TerryClifton02

@mantisdragon91 @TerryClifton02  

Of course they didn't have WMD's, but even Clinton and friends thought they did for the 8 years he spent bombing the hell out of Hussein. I don't see Israel threatening their neighbors. Also, if we were to use your logic about occupying foreign soil, lets just give Mexico the West Coast and Texas, well at least California.  

TerryClifton02
TerryClifton02

@AlphaJuliette @TerryClifton02  

Absolutely, squeeze them even harder. You give them no room to wiggle, and allow their neighbors to protect their sovereignty, including Israel. IF you think Iran is going to give up their nuclear weapons program you are beyond naive. Iran is an active supporter in terrorism across the middle east and beyond. Their unbridled support for Hezbollah is unmatched, and also they are supporting Bashir Assad in his continued massacre of his people. None of this was even breached during the "historic" deal, Thurston Howell III cut with the Mullahs.  

valentine.godoflove
valentine.godoflove

TIME CENSORED MY POST.....BNECAUSE...IT IS HISTORICALLY ....TRUE..

VALENTINE....WORLD HISTORIAN, MILITARY HISTORIAN, POLITICAL HISTORIAN....COMEDIAN...LOL

outsider
outsider

Go away rusty, you're drunk. And apparently having an identity crisis

ARTRaveler
ARTRaveler

I suggest that we go back to the Middle Ages and put the warlords that want a fight in the first wave ashore.  They have spent 12 years sending other people's kids to fight their wars and if you are so hung up on the US being the bully in this case, then be willing to stand up front.  

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

I smell Israel.  Obama's going to need to convince Netanyahu first.  Ugh

outspoken
outspoken

The   AIPAC controlled   senator  and congresman  is hell bent  on  going to war  with IRAN.  But    gpoing to WAR   with  IRAN

will  be disaster  in MIddle east  and  catastrophy   on world  economy.

ARTRaveler
ARTRaveler

@outspoken They just can't stand for not being at war with someone.  We really need $9/ gallon gasoline to get the alternative energy program moving.

And this time, BUDGET FOR THE WAR.  We can't possibly raise the national debt playing war games to keep the defense industry busy.  And forget any talk about the Iranian people revolting because when attacked, they will all become Persians, a very proud people.  


ricardo_lion
ricardo_lion

@ARTRaveler @outspoken   Israel did not declare war on those Muslim Arab bloody dictatorships, medieval kingdoms and jihadi groups supported by Iran, but the other way around and if the Persians are so proud why did they convert to the religion invented by an Arab 1,500 years after Judaism, 650 after Jesus, an Arab obsessed with Jews (all "prophets" in the Koran) and the Jewish capital city, Jerusalem (holy to Islam too, for some reason)?  Why don`t they go back to their original religion?  The problem, obsession with Jews (less than 0,2% of the world population) and their little country (0,0000000000000000000000000...1% of the world area) would go away.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@ricardo_lion @ARTRaveler @outspoken So Israel did not attack Egypt in 56, Lebanon in 82 and the Gaza strip on multiple occasions? And to use your reasoning if the Western World is so proud why did they convert to a religion 950 years after Judaism?

ricardo_lion
ricardo_lion

@mantisdragon91   No, Israel defended from Egypt in 1956.  Egypt was ruled by a bloody Muslim Arab dictator that closed the sea for Israel navigation and made genocidal threats.  Israel is too small and can`t wait to be attacked.

Lebanon, 1982:  Israel defended.  Israel invaded to stop the PLO from firing rockets on Israel`s civilians.

Gaza strip:  The same.  Every conflict was started by the Muslim terrorists ruling the judenrein Gaza strip.

Why did the Western World convert to Christianism (Judaism)?  Don`t know.  Because a Roman Emperor thought that the religion of one of the small peoples they conquered was superior.

ARTRaveler
ARTRaveler

@ricardo_lion @ARTRaveler @outspoken You are confusing national identity and religion.  You are probably someone who actually believes that the Founders of this country were "Christians".  There is absolutely no connection between being proud Persians and what religious faith or no religious faith they follow.  Yes, most of the Middle East is full of religious haters but we don't need the US in there as another one.  If we defend Israel, it must be because they are being attacked, not because the Christian faith came out of the Jewish faith.  My God is big enough to take care of his own without getting another million or more killed. .  But if you are so gung ho,. catch a flight to Israel and join their Defense Force. We lost thousands and killed additional thousands of Iraqis because a Republican President left the need to follow some religious fervor without having any idea that there were multiple branches of Islam and they hate each other.