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Even After Obama’s Lobbying, Key Dems Say No to Easing Iran Sanctions

Obama says "opening up the spigot a little bit" for the Islamic Republic is "a test that is worth conducting." Schumer, Menendez aren't buying it.

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

November 19, 2013 - 6:35 pm
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WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of senators dug in against the Obama administration Tuesday as the president held a long closed-door session with skeptical committee leaders in an effort to win them over to his preferred method of negotiating with Iran.

That, as President Obama told the Wall Street Journal CEO Council in the afternoon, means Washington would “open up the spigot a little bit for a very modest amount of relief that is entirely subject to reinstatement if, in fact, they violated any part of this early agreement.”

“And it would purchase a period of time — let’s say, six months — during which we could see if they could get to the end state of a position where we, the Israelis, the international community could say with confidence Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapon,” Obama said.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle cautioned once again, though, that the Islamic Republic was using Obama’s deal-making to buy time to reach an operational nuclear weapons program.

“Essentially, what we do is we allow them to access a small portion of these assets that are frozen,” Obama said. “So what we are suggesting both to the Israelis, to members of Congress here, to the international community, but also to the Iranians, is, let’s look, let’s test the proposition that over the next six months we can resolve this in a diplomatic fashion, while maintaining the essential sanctions architecture, and, as president of the United States, me maintaining all options to prevent them from getting nuclear weapons. I think that is a test that is worth conducting.”

“And my hope and expectation is not that we’re going to solve all of this just this week in this interim phase, but rather that we’re purchasing ourselves some time to see how serious the Iranian regime might be in re-entering membership in the world community and taking the yoke of these sanctions off the backs of their economy.”

Before the Four Seasons Hotel event, Obama was huddled with senators in the Roosevelt Room at the White House for about two hours, with Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Advisor Susan Rice. Chairmen, ranking members, and other members of the Senate Banking, Foreign Relations, Armed Services and Intelligence committees were in attendance.

“The President made clear that achieving a peaceful resolution that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is profoundly in America’s national security interest. The initial, 6-month step of the P5+1 proposal would halt progress on the Iranian nuclear program and roll it back in key respects, stopping the advance of the program for the first time in nearly a decade and introducing unprecedented transparency into Iran’s nuclear activities while we negotiate a long-term, comprehensive solution. The President underscored that in the absence of a first step, Iran will continue to make progress on its nuclear program by increasing its enrichment capacity, continuing to grow its stockpile of enriched uranium, installing advanced centrifuges, and making progress on the plutonium track at the Arak reactor,” the White House said in a readout of the meeting.

“…He reiterated that the purpose of sanctions was and remains to change Iran’s calculus regarding its nuclear program. He indicated that new sanctions should not be enacted during the current negotiations, but that they would be most effective as a robust response should negotiations fail.”

While the White House continues to insist that all options are on the table to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, Obama stressed to the senators that he “firmly believes that it would be preferable to do so peacefully.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) called the exchange “a very good, long, detailed conversation about where things are.”

“This weekend, obviously, in Geneva, a breakthrough could occur, might not occur. I don’t think anybody’s looking at it as a fait accompli,” Corker told CNN, adding there were “a lot” of senators “concerned about alleviating the leverage that we have and not getting enough in return and a lot of concerns about this is interim deal being the new norm, that once you hit this interim deal, that’s the end of it.”

The senator said there was “a good deal of discussion about Israel… obviously, because of Iran’s stated position of wanting to wipe Israel off the map, and the proximity, obviously, to Israel, this is something that’s more up close and personal by far.”

“There really wasn’t a great deal of discussion about the relationship, the allies, except in passing,” Corker added.

But by the afternoon, Obama had lost two of his key allies in that meeting as Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, joined their colleague Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Republicans Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) in demanding that Kerry take any rollback of sanctions off the negotiating table. Out of those Republicans, McCain was in the meeting with the president.

“We are concerned that the interim agreement would require us to make significant concessions before we see Iran demonstrably commit to moving away from developing a nuclear weapons capability,” the senators wrote to Kerry.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
Life is unfair Mr President, sorry but you can't go whole hog in your support of Islamic murderers, please, a little discretion is in order, some under the table lying and aid is the best way to help those terrorists who gun people down in the streets while developing nuclear weapons. All good things in time Mr. President.
And how's your golf game?
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
We all like to make fun of France's military history, but I spent some time around them in the 90's (NATO) and they are actually pretty capable - should be more than capable to handle the Iranians - and they have been kicking some serious jihadi ass in North Africa recently. The Israelis and the French will carry the water while the Saudis hold their coats...but 100% concur - Godspeed all.

Remember BENGHAZI!
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
The neo-commies realize they are in enough trouble without going along with the Nincumpoop-in-Chief on another foreign policy disaster....ONLY for the sake of the country, I applaud their decision to keep the pressure on Iran. If the Mad Mullahs get nukes, we'll undoubtedly have either a war or a nuclear terrorist attack somewhere in the free world - we know this - so why go along with ANY policy which DOES NOT keep pressure on the Mullahs? Even the frickin, fartin, fudgin French realize this for Pete's sake! No foreign leader on the face of the Earth TRUSTS the word of our weak, feckless, naive, man-child president....THAT is what will lead to war; Israel will feel compelled to act in their own interests because Bibi KNOWS Obama will not be there when Israel needs help. May God forgive us if that happens....I'm just a retired 1SG, but even I know a regional conventional war is much better than a nuclear holocaust.

Remember BENGHAZI!
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (11)
All Comments   (11)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
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38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
The sanctions did not bring Iran to the table, the need for more time did. North Korea played this same game 60 years ago and is still playing it. The Palestinians play it too. Iran has just taken a page out of their playbook. Stall, talk, stall until we get where we want to be. Take anything the West wants to give us and keep right on doing what we want. It is a strategy that works because we are just like Charlie Brown, Lucy and the football. We want so badly to believe that they are just like us and want the same things we want. So, there's Lucy holding the ball again and here comes poor Charlie Brown hoping the ball will be there when he gets there.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Obama is not going to ask Congress just like his other efforts to surpass the Constitution as he has aleready shown us. He does not care about the laws but excells at using excetive orders to bypass the legal system.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Dear Mr. President:
Neville Chamberlain would be so proud of you. But then again, fools never learn.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Life is unfair Mr President, sorry but you can't go whole hog in your support of Islamic murderers, please, a little discretion is in order, some under the table lying and aid is the best way to help those terrorists who gun people down in the streets while developing nuclear weapons. All good things in time Mr. President.
And how's your golf game?
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
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38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
You can summarize Obamas negotiating strategy in four words -

Blah blah blah boom.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
The neo-commies realize they are in enough trouble without going along with the Nincumpoop-in-Chief on another foreign policy disaster....ONLY for the sake of the country, I applaud their decision to keep the pressure on Iran. If the Mad Mullahs get nukes, we'll undoubtedly have either a war or a nuclear terrorist attack somewhere in the free world - we know this - so why go along with ANY policy which DOES NOT keep pressure on the Mullahs? Even the frickin, fartin, fudgin French realize this for Pete's sake! No foreign leader on the face of the Earth TRUSTS the word of our weak, feckless, naive, man-child president....THAT is what will lead to war; Israel will feel compelled to act in their own interests because Bibi KNOWS Obama will not be there when Israel needs help. May God forgive us if that happens....I'm just a retired 1SG, but even I know a regional conventional war is much better than a nuclear holocaust.

Remember BENGHAZI!
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Let em cry 'uncle'. Until they give up their nuclear ambitions keep the screws tight. In fact I'd tighten them if I were in charge.

O'Nero prefers to fiddle while France Saudi Arabia and Israel lay plans on how to take out Iran's nuclear sites. I wish them God-speed.



39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
We all like to make fun of France's military history, but I spent some time around them in the 90's (NATO) and they are actually pretty capable - should be more than capable to handle the Iranians - and they have been kicking some serious jihadi ass in North Africa recently. The Israelis and the French will carry the water while the Saudis hold their coats...but 100% concur - Godspeed all.

Remember BENGHAZI!
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's almost as though some are having confidence doubts about Obama.

Whatever could that be from?
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
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