Diplomacy

House Democratic Whip Blasts White House for Smear Campaign Against Iran Sanctions Supporters

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer blasted the White House on Tuesday for accusing U.S. lawmakers who favor pressuring Iran of seeking to drag America into a war.

“There have been some that have suggested in the White House that those folks were more interested in war than they were in the resolution by peaceful means. I think that is absolutely untrue, [an] irresponsible assertion, and ought to be clarified and retracted by those who have made it within the administration,” Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters Tuesday morning. “Nobody believes, as far as I know, that going to war with Iran is anything but a dangerous objective that none of us would seek.”

At stake is a debate over the risks and rewards of signaling to Iran that it should make concessions in the context of comprehensive negotiations over its nuclear program, which is widely believed to include clandestine weaponization components. The White House has insisted that it has sufficient leverage to extract significant concessions in the context of comprehensive negotiations, and that Senate moves to lock in future sanctions should negotiations fail will undermine talks. Regarding the latter claim, analysts have pushed back with calculations suggesting that Iran literally can’t afford to walk away from negotiations. Regarding assessments of leverage, administration officials up to and including Secretary of State John Kerry have openly acknowledged that Western negotiators currently lack the means to force Iran to meet its international obligations, codified in half a dozen United Nations Security Council resolutions, to fully dismantle its nuclear program. The initial erosion of sanctions promised to Iran by the Joint Plan of Action (JPA), meanwhile, threatens to further erode the international sanctions regime that the White House is leaning on for leverage. The Obama administration’s move to brand those outlining such concerns as warmongers – a move that Hoyer described as “absolutely untrue, [an] irresponsible assertion, and [one that] ought to be clarified and retracted” – has in some quarters come off as shrill.

[Photo: Tom / Wiki Commons]