Clinton Joins Administration Lobbying Effort Against Iran Sanctions

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee summoned Hillary Clinton in the broader administration campaign to bully Democrats into not supporting an Iran sanctions bill put forward by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).

"Now that serious negotiations are finally under way, we should do everything we can to test whether they can advance a permanent solution," Clinton said in the letter to Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), intended to be shared with his colleagues.

"The U.S. intelligence community has assessed that imposing new unilateral sanctions now 'would undermine the prospects for a successful comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran,'" she continued. "I share that view. It could rob us of the diplomatic high ground we worked so hard to reach, break the united international front we constructed, and in the long run, weaken the pressure on Iran by opening the door for other countries to chart a different course."

"It was only because the entire world recognized that the United States was willing to engage in good faith negotiations -- and that the regime in Tehran was not -- that we were able to rally all the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council behind serious sanctions, including Russia and China, and convince major consumers of Iranian oil to seek other supplies... If the world judges -- rightly or wrongly -- that negotiations have collapsed because of actions in the United States Congress, even some of our closest partners abroad -- to say nothing of countries like Russia and China -- may well falter in their commitment."

Clinton added that the divide between the majority of Congress and the Obama administration looked bad to Iran. "We should give anyone watching from Tehran no reason to doubt America's unity and resolve," she said.

Levin, who has always opposed the Menendez-Kirk bill, called the Clinton letter "a thoughtful, persuasive argument from an experienced, respected senior official."

"It makes clear Secretary Clinton's belief that tough sanctions helped bring Iran to the negotiating table, and that Congress and the administration are poised to act if Iran violates its commitments or fails to negotiate in good faith toward a final agreement," Levin said. "Her letter is another strong signal to Congress that we should not take any legislative action at this time that would damage international unity or play into the hands of hard-liners in Iran who oppose negotiations."

Iran's foreign minister, Javad Zarif, held private talks Sunday with Secretary of State John Kerry. Menendez's committee is holding a hearing on Iran tomorrow.

After Menendez refused to back down and drop his bill as the White House demanded, he came under investigation by the Senate ethics committee and the Department of Justice over a late reimbursement to a campaign donor for a private flight. Menendez's office said the $11,250 accounting error was noticed and paid at the end of last year.