Going against the Obama administration’s lobbying heading into the next round of nuclear negotiations, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) indicated on the floor today that he will support a new sanctions bill against Iran.
“I believe we must do everything possible to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons capability, which would threaten Israel and the national security of the United States,” Reid said.
Of the current negotiations, Reid said he supports the White House effort and wants the talks “to produce the strongest possible agreement.”
“However, we are also are aware of the possibility that the Iranians could keep the negotiations from succeeding. I hope that will not happen,” he continued. “But the Senate must be prepared to move forward with a new bipartisan Iran sanctions bill, when the Senate returns after Thanksgiving recess. And I am committed to do so.”
“A number of Senators have offered their own amendments on Iran in the Defense Authorization bill, and I know that other Senators also have their own sanctions bills. I will support a bill that would broaden the scope of our current petroleum sanctions; place limitations on trade with strategic sectors of the Iranian economy that support its nuclear ambitions, as well as pursue those who divert goods to Iran,” Reid said.
“While I support the administration’s diplomatic effort, I believe we need to leave our legislative options open to act on a new, bipartisan sanctions bill in December, shortly after we return.”
Key Democrats had already begun peeling away from Obama and his insistence that new sanctions not be passed as he peels back some existing sanctions as concessions.
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.
“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.
“It is our understanding that the interim agreement now under consideration would not require Iran to even meet the terms of prior United Nations Security Council resolutions which require Iran to suspend its reprocessing, heavy water-related and enrichment-related activities and halt ongoing construction of any uranium-enrichment, reprocessing, or heavy water-related facilities,” they continued. “…We feel strongly that any easing of sanctions along the lines that the P5+1 is reportedly considering should require Iran to roll back its nuclear program more significantly than now envisioned.”
Reid’s support for sanctions increases the likelihood that Congress will be able to override a presidential veto. The last sanctions bill in the House passed with a whopping 400-20 majority.
“While these negotiations are still going on at this fragile stage — and we ought to know in the next few weeks where these negotiations are going to end up — now is not the time for new sanctions,” National Security Advisor Susan Rice said this week. “That would find the United States isolated, when we now have the international community with us, supporting a diplomatic solution. And it would take the pressure off Iran.”