Sen. Angus King (I-ME) said Tuesday that momentum in the Senate on imposing new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program has subsided and that those pushing the bill are considering alternative avenues to pressure the White House in its upcoming negotiations with Tehran.
Reuters reported on Tuesday that the effort in the Senate to place new sanctions on Iran — a move opposed by numerous experts, the Obama administration and some high-ranking Members of Congress — “has stalled,” and that “lawmakers are discussing whether to introduce a much weaker measure.”
“I would say based on the story this morning, based on comments I’m getting on the floor, the momentum has slowed in terms of bringing it forward,” King said at an event sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations. “So if I had to bet right now I would think that it probably won’t come to the floor any time soon.”
King said that statements from the likes of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, and various experts against the Iran sanctions bill has contributed to its current downward trajectory. “A lot of people have been saying, ‘Wait a minute, slow down, what would be the effect here?'” King added. “Because at the beginning it was you know, let’s go and 59 co-sponsors in a matter of weeks and then it kind of stopped.”
King — who along with Levin wrote an op-ed published in the New York Times on Monday opposing new sanctions — also noted that a recent U.S. intelligence assessment contributed, telling the audience that the Intelligence Committee has said that there’s a “high likelihood that the Iranians would walk” away if Congress imposes new sanctions now. “So there’s an intelligence basis for that concern because of the internal politics in Iran,” he said.
Reuters says that now that he sanctions push has most likely failed, “congressional hard-liners” on Iran will shift their fight to the final agreement, which will most likely include “insisting Iran give up all uranium enrichment.”
And it appears from his comments on Tuesday that Senator King agrees. “I think one of the questions that has to be considered is, ‘What is success. What is the definition of success.’ Some of our allies want success to be no nuclear capacity at all, no enrichment capacity at all,” King said. “The indication from Iran is that they’re not going to accept that, so the question is, what between zero and something is going to be acceptable in the agreement. And there are going to be all kinds of other pieces to it in terms of reactors and centrifuges and parts and inspections and all those kinds of things.”
The nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 on a final agreement are reportedly set to resume in New York next month.