Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) has teamed up with the liberal grassroots giant MoveOn.org to circulate a petition promoting diplomacy with Iran and calling on the Senate to forgo further sanctions on the Islamic Republic while talks over its nuclear program are ongoing.
“The interim agreement with Iran gives the United States and our allies a chance to resolve the nuclear standoff with Iran without resorting to military action,” Murphy says in the petition, which is to be delivered to Congress’s upper chamber. “The Senate should give negotiations the opportunity to succeed before voting on any additional sanctions or other efforts that would undermine diplomacy.”
Strong momentum against new Iran sanctions now — which the White House, experts and various lawmakers say will derail talks and could lead to war — has put the Senate bill “on ice,” as the Huffington Post recently reported. That momentum gained further strength this week after it was reported that Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said they oppose new sanctions now. On top of that, there’s now a new movement in the House, backed by more than 70 Democrats, against any new punitive measures against Tehran at this time.
Murphy has been a long time opponent of adding any more Iran sanctions while the U.S. and its international partners negotiate a final deal with Iran over its nuclear program. Just weeks after the Geneva interim agreement and weeks before the Senate push for new sanctions — led by Sens. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) — Murphy said that new sanctions would “empower” Iranian hardliners. “What we would risk doing here in implementing a new round of sanctions is not just screwing up the negotiation, but sending a message to the Iranian people — who are frankly way more pro-American than people might think — that we aren’t really serious about ultimately doing the deal they want,” he said in early December.
“If Iran walks away from the negotiating table in bad faith, then the Senate should debate new sanctions,” Murphy’s MoveOn petition says. “But now, let’s give the Obama Administration and their partners the room to work out a peaceful resolution to this long-festering crisis before voting on any additional sanctions or other efforts that would undermine diplomacy.”
On the other side of the sanctions push, the powerful pro-Israel lobby group American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is, as the New York Times reported on Tuesday, in a “very public standoff with the White House” on the issue. AIPAC’s top priority, the Times notes, “a Senate bill to impose new sanctions on Iran, has stalled after stiff resistance from President Obama, and in what amounts to a tacit retreat, Aipac has stopped pressuring Senate Democrats to vote for the bill.”
The National Journal reported this week that “the resurgent progressive movement” has “capitalized on a war-weary public to push Democrats in Obama’s direction [on Iran].” MoveOn.org, Daily Kos, The Huffington Post, the Journal reports, “and other liberal media outlets have mobilized against Democrats who supported sanctions, accusing them of undermining Obama with warmongering and asking, ‘Where’s the antiwar Left?'”
As of press time, the petition has received nearly 30,000 signatures and MoveOn.org’s Ilya Sheyman says the group’s members have been focused on the Iran issue. “Supporting diplomacy with Iran was one of the top three priorities in our 2014 MoveOn member priorities survey and members have been deeply engaged since the deal was announced in November,” he said in an email to ThinkProgress.
Indeed, since November, according to a MoveOn political action press statement, “hundreds of thousands of MoveOn members have signed petitions and made tens of thousands of phone calls to Congress in support of President Obama’s diplomacy with Iran.”
The bottom line, says Sheyman, is that “MoveOn members and progressives are committed to supporting successful diplomacy with Iran and to making sure some of the same hawks who rushed us into Iraq don’t lead us into another unnecessary war in the Middle East.”