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POLITICS: PennAve

Senate weighing Iran sanctions setting up possible showdown with Obama

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The Senate may consider legislation implementing sanctions against Iran despite a nuclear deal announced days ago by world leaders in Geneva, setting up a possible veto showdown with President Obama.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said on Monday he will "take a look at" stronger sanctions against the country when Congress returns from Thanksgiving recess next week.

Reid expressed his reservations about the deal on NPR's "The Diane Rehm Show" on Monday. They came a day after Secretary of State John Kerry made the talk show rounds to defend the agreement as a first step toward preventing Iran from producing nuclear weapons.

Reid said he still believes tougher sanctions are needed, a view he expressed last week before the deal was announced.

"I still feel the same way today," Reid said on the show, which he joined from his home in Searchlight, Nev. "I said when we come back we will take a look at this to see if we need stronger sanctions."

Reid called the deal, supported by Obama, "an important first step," but said he understood the concerns of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called it "an historic mistake."

Reid said he has talked to Netanyahu.

"I think if I were the leader of that country, I would be concerned, too," Reid said.

A group of 14 bipartisan Senate lawmakers, including top Democratic leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., last week announced they were planning to devise new, tougher sanctions against Iran, depending on whether Kerry was able to strike a satisfactory deal in Geneva.

The plan lifts about $7 billion in economic sanctions against Iran in return for the country reducing some of its nuclear activity by halting the production of new centrifuges and reducing enrichment of purer forms of uranium, which can be more easily used to produce a weapon.

The six-month deal includes daily inspections and the expectation that a larger agreement will negotiated that will prevent the country from every manufacturing a nuclear bomb.

But the agreement reached was a disappointment to both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, who say it does nothing to prevent Iran from continuing to produce low-level uranium enrichment and does not force the country to dismantle any of its 19,000 centrifuges or its plutonium reactor.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a member of the bipartisan group, said Monday morning that lawmakers will move to pass new sanctions when they return from the recess.

"We're going to come up with a new round of sanctions that really defines the endgame," Graham said on CNN. "I think there's bipartisan support to dismantle the plutonium reactor and to stop enriching in Iran completely."

Reid told NPR that two Senate panels, the Foreign Relations Committee and the Banking Committee, will examine new legislative sanctions against Iran when Congress reconvenes after Thanksgiving.

"They will study this, they will hold hearings if necessary, and if we need work on this, if we need stronger sanctions I am sure we will do that," Reid said.

Rehm then asked Reid, "Could the president veto those?"

Reid answered, "Of course, yes."

The White House has continued to defend the deal, sending a top administration official to make Monday morning's talk show rounds.

Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken, appearing on "Fox and Friends," said the deal halts Iran's nuclear program for the first time in ten years and while it does not halt all uranium enrichment, "it stops the most sensitive and dangerous kind."

The compact with Iran, he said, stops the threat of Iran building a nuclear bomb that was "growing urgent."

Blinken also questioned whether Israel truly feels threatened by the deal, noting that shortly after it was announced, "the Israeli stock market hit an all-time high."

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