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Top US Lawmakers Skeptical of Potential Iran Nuclear Pact

  • Michael Bowman

FILE - Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) at a new conference in January, 2013.

FILE - Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) at a new conference in January, 2013.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is expected on Capitol Hill this week to brief lawmakers on international negotiations surrounding Iran’s nuclear program. Kerry is likely to hear skepticism from lawmakers of both political parties about Iran’s intentions and trustworthiness.

During the past two days, Secretary Kerry has spoken of an accord governing Iran’s nuclear capabilities as desirable, but unrealized.

Appearing on CBS’ Face the Nation program Sunday, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, said he is wary of any interim deal that eases sanctions against Iran in anticipation of a larger accord to end the country’s nuclear military capacity.

“[There are] a lot of concerns about the approach. All of us want to see it resolved diplomatically. We know the sanctions have gotten us here. And we [lawmakers] are worried we are dealing away our leverage," said Corker.

Monday, Kerry said major powers had joined together in an agreement, but that Iran objected to it. The secretary did not provide details of what the proposal contained.

But the very fact that so-called P+1 negotiators were ready to move ahead and Iran was not is troubling to the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Democrat Robert Menendez spoke on ABC’s This Week program.

“My concern here is that we seem to want the deal almost more than the Iranians. And you cannot want the deal more than the Iranians, especially when the Iranians are on the ropes [suffering economically]," said Menendez.

Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani blasted international sanctions, but said his country would continue to enrich nuclear material. Menendez said sanctions should be maintained and even strengthened until an ironclad final accord is in effect.

“It [sanctions] is an insurance for the United States to make sure that Iran actually complies with an agreement. It is also an incentive for the Iranians to know what is coming if you do not strike a deal," he said.

Menendez said he “looks forward” to working with other lawmakers on a new round of sanctions against Iran, but did not rule out the possibility the measures could be set aside if and when an accord with Tehran is finalized.

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