The chief U.S. negotiator with Iran last week urged Congress to wait a “few weeks” before moving to implement additional sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.
The Obama administration has in recent weeks been lobbying senators to hold off on a planned measure that would seek to completely cut off Iran’s oil supply from the rest of the world, among other stringent provisions. Top Obama officials argue — and experts agree — that pilling on more sanctions at a time when the Iranians have shown willingness to negotiate and offer substantive proposals could undermine the talks. While many lawmakers have been receptive to the White House’s pleas, others, including hawkish outside groups, have not, making it unclear which direction Congress will go.
Wendy Sherman, the top U.S. negotiator with Iran, continued to make the administration’s case in an interview on MSNBC on Friday. “We are…at a very serious moment in these negotiations,” she said. “They are serious, substantive and offer the possibility that we can stop the advance of Iran’s nuclear program and indeed gain more transparency and negotiate a long term comprehensive solution.”
Talks between the United States, its international partners and Iran and set to resume this week in Geneva. Sherman asked for a “few weeks” to give the Iranians a chance to move forward:
SHERMAN: But we’ve asked for a pause to give us just a few weeks to see if in fact we can get a first step agreement that would stop the advance of Iran’s nuclear program and we don’t think waiting a few weeks should hurt the effort here. In fact, I have said to Iran and have used it in leverage in the negotiation that we’ve asked the Congress for a pause and if Iran moves forward than that pause can be there. If Iran does not move forward then we will of course continue our strong partnership as we have today with the Congress to impose new sanctions. So this is really not a sanctions vote, this is a negotiation vote. This is a vote for a peaceful resolution to an issue which is very critical.
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The American Defamation League’s Abe Foxman confirmed on Saturday that the leaders of major Jewish groups in the United States had agreed in a meeting with Obama administration officials to delay any public campaign for more sanctions on Iran (other groups, like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee deny that such a deal was made).
“That means that we are not lobbying for additional sanctions and we are not lobbying for less sanctions,” Foxman said.
“President Obama has said he will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon,” Sherman noted later in her appearance on MSNBC. Echoing other top administration officials, she added: “That is our firm commitment, a negotiated diplomatic solution is the best way to get there.”