Top U.S. Intel Official Says New Iran Sanctions Now Would Be ‘Counterproductive’

The Director of National Intelligence on Wednesday urged Congress against passing additional sanctions on Iran while negotiations for a final deal over its nuclear program are taking place, saying that such a move would be “counterproductive” to the process.

DNI James Clapper agreed during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing that the first step agreement reached with Iran is going to have “real impact” in curbing the progress of Iran’s nuclear program. “Clearly it gets at the key thing we’re interested in and most concerned about is the more highly enriched uranium, the 20 percent enriched uranium,” he said.

Sen. Angus King (I-ME) — who opposes new sanctions on Iran at this time — asked Clapper if he stands by his recent assessment that new sanctions, even those with a delayed trigger, “would undermine the prospects of a successful comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran.”

“Yes sir,” Clapper said. “I think right now the imposition of more sanctions would be counterproductive.” Watch the clip:

While the new sanctions push appears to have stalled for now, a handful of senators are continuing the campaign. Calling the talks with Iran a “ruse,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) — a potential 2016 candidate for the GOP nomination for president — called on the Senate to move forward with the sanctions bill.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) attacked President Obama for saying in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday that he will veto any Iran sanctions bill Congress passes while talks are ongoing. “The world is literally about to blow up and our president did not really paint a fair picture of the threats we face,” Graham said.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) — who is sponsoring a bill of his own that will sabotage diplomacy with Iran — also attacked Obama’s veto threat. “I thought that was one of the most dangerous things in the entire speech,” he said, according to Roll Call, later adding that “if Iran acquires a nuclear weapon, the risk is unacceptable that that weapon will be detonated over the skies of Tel Aviv or New York or Los Angeles.”

Meanwhile, recent polling demonstrates that Americans continue to favor a diplomatic path when dealing with Iran’s nuclear program. An AP/GfK poll released on Tuesday found what while most Americans are skeptical of Tehran’s intentions, 60 percent approved the first step nuclear agreement.


In his written testimony given to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Clapper said that Iran “has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity to eventually produce nuclear weapons. This makes the central issue its political will to do so.”

Iran “wants to improve its nuclear and missile capabilities while avoiding severe repercussions — such as a military strike or regime-threatening sanctions,” Clapper’s prepared remarks also said, but added, “We do not know if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.”