Senators Reaffirm Iran Fears, Amid Diminishing Calls for New Sanctions

Global Security Newswire Staff
Feb. 5, 2014, 6:47 a.m.

U.S. sen­at­ors re­stated fears over the strategy for Ir­an talks, as a con­gres­sion­al sanc­tions push gradu­ally has lost mo­mentum, the Wall Street Journ­al re­ports.

Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee mem­bers on Tues­day said risks would be sig­ni­fic­ant if up­com­ing mul­ti­lat­er­al talks do not re­solve sus­pi­cions that Ir­an is nur­tur­ing a lat­ent nuc­le­ar-arms ca­pa­city through its os­tens­ibly peace­ful atom­ic-en­ergy activ­it­ies.

High-level staffers said the Sen­ate’s lead­er­ship has faced few­er calls in the last sev­er­al weeks to per­mit floor con­sid­er­a­tion of pos­sible new sanc­tions against Ir­an. Mean­while, Tehran is set this month to be­gin ne­go­ti­ations with the five per­man­ent U.N. Se­cur­ity Coun­cil mem­ber na­tions and Ger­many on a po­ten­tial long-term nuc­le­ar deal.

In an ef­fort to spur the talks along, the “P-5+1” na­tions agreed in Novem­ber to re­lax cer­tain eco­nom­ic re­stric­tions against the Middle East­ern na­tion in re­turn for lim­its on some of its nuc­le­ar ef­forts.

Pan­el Chair­man Robert Men­en­dez (D-N.J.), a pro­ponent of ad­di­tion­al eco­nom­ic steps, said he is “con­vinced that we should only re­lieve pres­sure on Ir­an in re­turn for veri­fi­able con­ces­sions that will fun­da­ment­ally dis­mantle Ir­an’s nuc­le­ar pro­gram.”

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s seni­or Ir­an ne­go­ti­at­or, though, con­tin­ued to in­sist that fresh sanc­tions could de­rail the ne­go­ti­ations.

“It is cru­cial we give dip­lomacy a chance to suc­ceed,” Un­der Sec­ret­ary of State Wendy Sher­man said.

The seni­or dip­lo­mat ad­ded that a pos­sible Rus­si­an-Ir­a­ni­an pet­ro­leum barter plan does not ap­pear likely to move for­ward for the time be­ing, Re­u­ters re­por­ted. The ar­range­ment might have provided $1.5 bil­lion in new monthly in­come to Ir­an.

“We are very crys­tal clear that any­thing like such an agree­ment between Rus­sia and Ir­an might have po­ten­tial sanc­tion­able ac­tion and would likely cre­ate tre­mend­ous risk with­in the P-5+1, which would make com­ing to a com­pre­hens­ive agree­ment all the more dif­fi­cult if not im­possible,” Sher­man told the com­mit­tee.

At the same time, Obama of­fi­cials said they are routinely talk­ing with Turk­ish coun­ter­parts about a sep­ar­ate barter ar­range­ment that has al­lowed Ir­an ac­cess to as much as $100 bil­lion in pet­ro­leum rev­en­ues by cir­cum­vent­ing eco­nom­ic pen­al­ties already in force, the Journ­al re­por­ted.

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