CAPITOL HILL — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has strongly defended the Obama administration's interim deal with Iran on its nuclear program, and asked Congress to hold off on passing any new sanctions on Iran to give ongoing negotiations a chance to succeed. The Senate is sending mixed signals as to whether it will take up a measure to impose new sanctions on Iran before it leaves for recess this year.
For the first time since the agreement on Iran was reached in Geneva last month, Secretary of State John Kerry came to Capitol Hill to address concerns that have been voiced by skeptical lawmakers. Kerry heard plenty of those from both Democratic and Republican members of the House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs Committee. The committee's chairman, Ed Royce, a Republican, said Iran has a history of deceiving the international community about its nuclear program.
"Iran is not just another country. It simply cannot be trusted with enrichment technology, because verification efforts can never be foolproof," said Royce.
Kerry argued that the agreement is a big boost to both U.S. national security and the security of close U.S. allies in the Middle East, including Israel.
"Once implemented, this agreement halts the progress of Iran's nuclear program, halts the progress and rolls it back for the first time in nearly 10 years," said Kerry.
Kerry appealed to members of the House and the Senate to hold off any efforts to impose new, tougher sanctions against Iran during the six month period specified in the deal, saying this could derail the process.
"Let me be very clear: this is a very delicate diplomatic moment and we have a chance to address peacefully one of the most pressing national security concerns that the world faces today,” said Kerry.
The House already passed tougher sanctions on Iran in July, but the Senate has not. There are mixed signals coming from the Senate. Republican Senator John McCain, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, indicated to VOA that the panel is considering a new sanctions bill.
"[We are] still negotiating, we should have an agreement soon," said McCain.
The Senate Banking Committee is not planning to pursue new sanctions against Iran. For this year, the Senate only has a little more than one week to act before a planned recess.