As the Obama administration tries to convince Congress not to pass a new sanctions bill against Iran, the White House took exception to a top Iranian official's decision honor a former leader of Hezbollah.
The White House issued a statement condemning Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for honoring Imad Mugniyah, at a wreath-laying ceremony.
The U.S. says Mugniyah was involved in terrorist attacks killing hundreds of people, including the bombing on the U.S. embassy in Beirut that killed more than 350 people in 1983 and an attack on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992.
“The inhumane violence that Mugniyah perpetrated — and that Lebanese Hezbollah continues to perpetrate in the region with Iran's financial and material support — has had profoundly destabilizing and deadly effects for Lebanon and the region,” said Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council.
“The decision to commemorate an individual who has participated in such vicious acts, and whose organization continues to actively support terrorism worldwide, sends the wrong message and will only exacerbate tensions in the region,” she continued.
The Obama administration finalized a deal on Sunday that would set up a timetable for Iran to begin rolling back its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of U.S.-led international sanctions.
A large contingent in Congress worries that the U.S. cannot extract lasting concessions from Iran and fears that the preliminary deal struck provides too much sanctions relief for too little in return for Iran. While Tehran has agreed, starting Jan. 20, to start only enriching uranium to 5 percent and dilute its stockpiles of 20-percent enriched uranium, it maintains its right to research and develop an advanced centrifuge that would process uranium more efficiently.
Some 59 senators have signed onto a sanctions bill that would give the administration a year to exhaust its diplomatic negotiations with Iran before a new round of sanctions would kick in. Senate aides say they may have reached a veto-proof majority of those willing to vote in favor of the bill if and when it hits the Senate floor for a vote.
Obama, along with several liberal Democratic groups, are trying to beat back support for the bill and prevent Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., from scheduling a vote.