A bipartisan group of 26 senators unveiled Iran-sanctions legislation Thursday, despite President Obama repeatedly asking the Senate to hold off further action while Secretary of State John Kerry negotiates with Tehran’s leadership.
The move is the latest sign of a growing wedge between Senate Democrats and the White House on Iran. The administration has said that even the introduction of a sanctions bill threatens to undermine the negotiations.
But the Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act also puts Senate Republicans in an awkward position. The measure would enforce the interim nuclear agreement announced with Iran, meaning Republicans are in essence giving their blessing to the preliminary agreement — which they’ve heavily criticized — by sanctioning it with the force of legislation.
The bill essentially codifies the interim agreement announced with Iran last month, at first giving the president an initial six months to ease economic sanctions while negotiating a comprehensive deal, then allowing the president additional flexibility to have up to a year to negotiate with Iran while sanctions were eased.
If Iran failed to follow the interim agreement, which lays out restrictions on uranium enrichment and centrifuge production, sanctions would go back into effect. Sanctions would also be reapplied if Iran initiated an act of aggression, such as committing a terrorist attack against the U.S. And if Iran fails to reach a final deal, sanctions would also go back into affect.
By Thursday afternoon the bill, led by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., had amassed more than a quarter of the chamber as sponsors.
The bill would require Iran to strictly adhere to a preliminary agreement reached with the U.S. and other world leaders in November. The legislation requires further reductions in purchases of Iranian petroleum and applies additional penalties to strategic elements of the Iranian economy, to include the engineering, mining, and construction sectors.
“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 said in a press release. “The Iranians last week blamed the administration for enforcing sanctions; now, they criticize Congress. The burden rests with Iran to negotiate in good faith and verifiably terminate its nuclear-weapons program. Prospective sanctions will influence Iran’s calculus and accelerate that process toward achieving a meaningful diplomatic resolution.”
Kirk added, “The American people rightfully distrust Iran’s true intentions and they deserve an insurance policy to defend against Iranian deception during negotiations…. This is a responsible, bipartisan bill to protect the American people from Iranian deception and I urge the majority leader to give the American people an up or down vote.”
The legislation is cosponsored by Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Ben Cardin, D-Md., John McCain, R-Ariz., Robert Casey, D-Pa., Marco Rubio, R-Florida, Chris Coons, D-Del., John Cornyn, R-Texas, Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., Mark Begich, D-Alaska, Bob Corker, R-Tenn., Mark Pryor, D-Ark., Susan Collins, R-Maine, Mary Landrieu, D-La., Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Mark Warner, D-Va., Mike Johanns, R-Neb., Kay Hagan, D-N.C., Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo.
What We're Following See More »
Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”