President Threatens to Veto Iran Sanctions Legislation

During a press conference Friday, President Obama vowed to veto the conditional sanctions put forward by the renewed Kirk-Menendez bill, a law that would place increased sanctions on Iran’s economy if there is no final nuclear deal by June 30. The president declared that he is “not suggesting that we are in immediate warfooting should negotiations with Iran fail,” further undermining his promise to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon.

On Thursday, according to a report in The New York Times, during the Senate Democratic Issues Conference, the President implied that Democratic lawmakers who were considering supporting the new sanctions bill were motivated by pressures from donors and the prospect of short-term political gain rather than long-term interests. Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.Y.) responded by taking the podium and saying he “took personal offense” to those comments. Menendez said “that he had worked for more than 20 years to counter Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and had always been focused on long-term consequences.” Congress has been increasingly concerned that sanctions relief and concessions provided to Iran by the current interim Joint Plan of Action (JPA) have bolstered the Iranians’ negotiating position in nuclear talks with the West. In addition to the sanctions bill, lawmakers in Congress are planning a bill that would require congressional approval of any final agreement reached by negotiators.

During the press conference President Obama also claimed that the interim deal “froze progress on their nuclear program” and that “Iran has not accelerated its program during the time these negotiations have taken place.” However the interim deal ignored centrifuge R & D and ballistic missile development, and allows uranium enrichment to 3.5%. On Tuesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that Iran is planning to build two additional reactors in Bushehr, which will further advance Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.  The State Department claimed that although they are concerned, the construction of two new reactors does not violate the JPOA.

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