U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was on Capitol Hill this week urging Senators not to move forward with any new sanctions on Iran while the Administration is in diplomatic talks aimed at curtailing Iran’s nuclear capabilities. Before a closed briefing with the Senate Banking Committee, which has jurisdiction over such economic sanctions, Secretary Kerry told reporters, “We now are negotiating, and the risk is that if Congress were to unilaterally move to raise sanctions, it could break faith with those negotiations and actually stop them and break them apart.” In his briefing that day with reporters, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney added:
[I]t should be clear to Members of Congress who do not believe we ought to pursue the potential for a peaceful resolution here that there’s a binary choice. If not at least testing the hypothesis that Iran is serious about resolving this diplomatically, then what option do we have left? And those who take that position ought to be clear that they, in essence, are suggesting that war is the only alternative.
Secretary Kerry’s visit to the Hill did not satisfy some, such as Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), who is also the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He stated after the briefing, “It was an emotional appeal,” and told reporters he was “stunned that in a classified setting… there would be such a lack of specificity.” Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said, “I am worried that we are reducing sanctions while Iran is not reducing its nuclear capabilities.” Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) called the briefing “very unconvincing,” “fairly anti-Israeli,” and added, “This administration, like Neville Chamberlain, is yielding a large and bloody conflict in the Middle East involving Iranian nuclear weapons, which will now be part of our children’s future.”
After an inconclusive negotiation with Iran last week, talks between Iran and six world powers, including the U.S., are set to resume on November 20. Meanwhile, legislative action on sanctions remains a possibility next week in the Senate Banking Committee or on the Senate Floor during consideration of the annual National Defense Authorization Act.
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: November 15, 2013