Twenty-six U.S. senators introduced a measure to impose further sanctions against Iran if it violates a six-month accord with the U.S. and other nations or fails to reach a final agreement curtailing its nuclear program.
Senators Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, and Mark Kirk, an Illinois Republican, announced the action today in an e-mailed statement.
The Obama administration has pressed lawmakers not to risk disrupting the Iran negotiations by acting on new sanctions before there’s time to see if a deal can be reached to assure that Iran doesn’t produce nuclear weapons. Action on a Senate bill won’t come before next month because members are preparing to adjourn by this weekend for the rest of this year.
The new bill “should not be enacted,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said.
“We don’t want to see any actions that would proactively undermine American diplomacy,” Carney told reporters today.
Menendez said the legislation, which would require further reductions in Iranian oil sales, gives the president flexibility to conduct the negotiations.
“Current sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table, and a credible threat of future sanctions will require Iran to cooperate and act in good faith at the negotiating table,” Menendez, who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in the statement.
The sanctions legislation also would apply additional penalties to strategic elements of the Iranian economy, including engineering, mining and construction, according to the statement.
If implemented, “the new petroleum sanctions will cost Iran over $3 billion per month in lost exports of crude oil, fuel oil and lease condensates, and billions of dollars more from the blacklisting of key Iranian strategic sectors and the loss of access to overseas foreign exchange reserves,” Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said in an e-mail.
“This should be incentive enough for Iran, if it is serious about saving its economy from a deep recession, not to cheat on its nuclear commitments and to move quickly to conclude a final deal,” said Dubowitz, who is an advocate for sanctions and an adviser to lawmakers on how to pressure Iran.
The legislation has bipartisan support reflecting pressure on President Barack Obama to get a tough accord with Iran or walk away, which may set the stage for military action. Obama has said that Iran, which says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, won’t be allowed to gain nuclear weapons.
The legislation would let the president waive the sanctions if negotiations are proceeding and Iran is complying with the interim accord reached last month in Geneva. The legislation sets stringent requirements for what Iran must do in order for the president to waive sanctions under a final accord.
The measure says that a final deal must include the dismantling of “Iran’s illicit nuclear infrastructure, including enrichment and reprocessing capabilities and facilities, the heavy water reactor and production plant at Arak, and any nuclear weapon components and technology, so that Iran is precluded from a nuclear breakout capability and prevented from pursuing both uranium and plutonium pathways to a nuclear weapon.”
Iran has asserted that it won’t entirely give up its current uranium enrichment capabilities, which provide the Islamic Republic with the capability to quickly produce nuclear weapons if it chooses to do so.
One provision of the Nov. 24 joint plan of action between world powers and Iran says that “the U.S. administration, acting consistent with the respective roles of the president and the Congress, will refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions” during the six-month period allocated to negotiate a final deal.
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