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Brushing Off White House Pressure, Bipartisan Calls for New Iran Sanctions Emerge in Both House and Senate

Journalists today continued to report on the aftermath of Senate briefings conducted yesterday by top Obama administration officials including Secretary of State John Kerry, in which the White House pressured senators to hold off imposing new sanctions on Iran in the lead-up to talks scheduled for next week.

The stance has generated consternation among analysts inasmuch as the administration had in the past placed great emphasis on the argument that the Iranians were being forced to come to the table by financial pressure. Foreign Policy Magazine executive editor Noah Shachtman did not mince words:

Foreign Policy’s longer write-up on the meeting noted that it succeeded “in solidifying [the] GOP” against the administration’s stance. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) had already last night blasted a deal reportedly offered to Iran last weekend by the international community as a “Chamberlain”-style agreement, and revealed Israeli assessments that Iran’s nuclear program would be set back “about 24 days.” Yesterday Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) piled on, rejecting the White House’s stance that sanctions should not be increased:

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday joined Republicans in slamming the Obama administration’s request to delay sanctions on Iran.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said a briefing by Secretary of State John Kerry and others Wednesday failed to convince him that a proposed deal with Iran to loosen sanctions in exchange for a temporary freeze of the country’s nuclear program was worth pursuing. Republicans left the briefing determined to push forward with new sanctions but Democrats had until now declined to weigh in.

“I just don’t think there was enough specificity to know whether what they’re pursuing is a good deal or not,” Menendez said.

Meanwhile a bipartisan group of House representatives today called on Senate leaders to pass new sanctions. The letter, signed by 63 members, was authored by Representatives Peter Roskam (R-IL), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Michael McCaul (R-TX), and Grace Meng (D-NY). Roskam commented that “pressure brought Iran to the negotiating table, and continued strong pressure is critical to convince Iran to end its pursuit of nuclear weapons.”

[Photo: U.S. Department of State / Flickr]