WASHINGTON— U.S. lawmakers of both major political parties are expressing skepticism over last month’s interim accord on Iran’s nuclear program. Congress’ appetite for boosting sanctions against Tehran has not waned, despite Obama administration warnings that heightened measures could torpedo delicate diplomacy.
The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Democrat Robert Menendez, says he would like nothing more than a negotiated solution to the international standoff over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
“I hope the deal can be successful. Obviously, diplomacy is something we want to see work,” he said.
But, speaking on CBS’ "Face the Nation" program, Menendez said economic pressure against Iran must be sustained - and boosted if negotiations fail to yield a final accord.
“Prospectively looking for sanctions that are invoked six months after the date of enactment, that give the president certain waivers, creates the flexibility for diplomacy, and also sends the message to Iran that there is a consequence if you do not strike a successful deal,” he said.
The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, says the interim deal is a mistake.
“I am very concerned, especially with this interim deal, how we get to a place where Iran is not enriching constantly, or where they are right on the verge, always, of being able to break out and create a nuclear weapon,” he said.
Corker says tightening sanctions would improve chances for what he terms “a better endgame” on Iran’s nuclear program, and expressed hope that a bill will come up for a vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Majority Leader Harry Reid has neither promised nor ruled out such a vote, saying the chamber needs time to study additional sanctions before taking action.
The State Department says imposing new sanctions while negotiations are ongoing would be a “mistake.” White House spokesman Jay Carney has warned against taking steps that would undermine diplomacy, saying, “The American people do not want a march to war.”