Iran-Santions Bill Puts GOP Senators in Awkward Stance

Stacy Kaper, National Journal
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Stacy Kaper, National Journal
Dec. 19, 2013, 11:02 a.m.

The Nuc­le­ar Weapons Free Ir­an Act, just filed in the U.S. Sen­ate, puts cham­ber GOP mem­bers 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.

A bi­par­tis­an group of 26 sen­at­ors un­veiled the Ir­an-sanc­tions le­gis­la­tion on 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.

Un­der the le­gis­la­tion, 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-Fla.), 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.).

This art­icle was pub­lished in Glob­al Se­cur­ity News­wire, which is pro­duced in­de­pend­ently by Na­tion­al Journ­al Group un­der con­tract with the Nuc­le­ar Threat Ini­ti­at­ive. NTI is a non­profit, non­par­tis­an group work­ing to re­duce glob­al threats from nuc­le­ar, bio­lo­gic­al, and chem­ic­al weapons.

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