Kerry warns Congress against new anti-Iran sanctions

Kerry warns Congress against new anti-Iran sanctions
Thu Nov 14, 2013 10:18:26

US Secretary of State John Kerry has warned Congress against scuttling a historic opportunity for a nuclear pact with Iran by pressing ahead with new sanctions while international negotiators close in on a deal.

On Wednesday, Kerry said new action now from US lawmakers could shatter the international coalition made up of countries with interests as divergent as France, Russia and China, dashing hopes of a peaceful end to the decade-long Western standoff with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

“We put these sanctions in place in order to be able to put us in the strongest position possible to be able to negotiate. We now are negotiating,” Kerry told reporters ahead of testifying before the Senate Banking Committee. “And the risk is that if Congress were to unilaterally move to raise sanctions, it could break faith in those negotiations and actually stop them and break them apart.”

With nuclear negotiations set to resume in Switzerland next week, the Obama administration dispatched Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden to Congress Wednesday to seek more time for diplomacy. The request faces sharp resistance from pro-Israel members of Congress determined to further sanctions on Iranian.

At a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday, Democratic and Republican lawmakers sharply criticized Kerry and other senior US officials for their offer during last week’s inconclusive negotiations. In the Senate, the position is more mixed, with several members of both parties echoing the administration’s call for caution.

He said moving the goalposts during the current lull in talks by adding new sanctions against Iran’s oil and other industrial sectors would cause America’s negotiating partners to see the US as “dealing in bad faith.”

“They would bolt and they will say, ‘That’s not the deal,’” he said. “And then the sanctions do fall apart.”

“What we’re asking everyone to do is calm down, look hard at what can be achieved and what the realities are,” he said. “If this doesn’t work, we reserve the right to dial back up the sanctions. I will be up here on the Hill asking for increased sanctions and we always reserve the military option. So we lose absolutely nothing, except for the possibility of getting in the way of diplomacy and letting it work.”

He said negotiators should have a “few weeks” more to see if they can reach an agreement.


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