Last week’s interim agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran over its nuclear weapons program offers the regime sanctions relief even as U.S. lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats, are demanding more and stricter sanctions. The White House counters that more sanctions will only narrow diplomatic channels, drive the Iranians away from the negotiating table, and lead to war. Critics of the deal argue that by providing sanctions relief Obama is simply feeding an Iranian beast hungry for more concessions.
Negotiations for an “interim” arrangement over Iran’s nuclear weapons program finally succeeded this past weekend, as Security Council foreign ministers (plus Germany) flew to Geneva to meet their Iranian counterpart. After raising expectations of a deal by first convening on November 8-10, it would have been beyond humiliating to gather again without result. So agreement was struck despite solemn incantations earlier that “no deal is better than a bad deal.”
A statement from a bipartisan group of senators pushing further sanctions on Iran:
“A nuclear weapons capable Iran presents a grave threat to the national security of the United States and its allies and we are committed to preventing Iran from acquiring this capability. We will work together to reconcile Democratic and Republican proposals over the coming weeks and to pass bipartisan Iran sanctions legislation as soon as possible.”
It’s Congress’s fault if there’s a war with Iran, says the White House. Last week administration officials showed their frustration with lawmakers who seek to impose another round of sanctions on the Iranians. "It is important to understand that if pursuing a resolution diplomatically is disallowed or ruled out, what options, then, do we and our allies have to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon?" said White House spokesman Jay Carney. "The American people do not want a march to war."
A senior State Department official on Thursday urged members of Congress to hold off on sanctioning Iran while the Obama administration attempts to court the rogue regime, according to testimony offered before the Senate.
The momentum to restrict Iranian oil exports has stalled, and it is time for Congress to eschew a more gradualist approach and mandate zero oil exports with zero waivers. This, along with more concrete military pressure, could increase the otherwise slim chances for success in expected new talks with Iran. U.S. lawmakers and Obama Administration officials should not fear the impact on the oil market, which can manage a cutoff of Iranian oil revenue better than can Tehran.