The White House urged Congress not to pass new Iran sanctions, calling on lawmakers to wait and see if Tehran complies with an initial agreement with Washington and other world powers before pushing more punitive measures.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Congress “should hold in abeyance” any new sanctions bills and evaluate Iran's willingness to roll back and freeze parts of its nuclear program over the next six months.
“We think it makes it clearer why it's so important to refrain from taking further sanctions actions now,” he told reporters at his daily briefing Monday.
“We believe we have the opportunity to test whether or not this can be resolved between the international community and Iran peacefully, which is the preferred way it would be resolved,” Carney said earlier.
Secretary of State John Kerry in late November announced the U.S. and five other world powers had reached a preliminary six-month deal with Iran to begin freezing its nuclear program. Officials from all countries involved have spent the last seven weeks negotiating the details of the deal, which were finalized Sunday.
Throughout the process, a bipartisan group of lawmakers have threatened to move forward with a new sanctions bill while Kerry and President Obama have pleaded with them not to do so. The White House argued that the passage of any new sanctions measure would derail the deal with Iran -- even if they have a delayed trigger.
Despite the Obama administration’s warnings, support for a bill co-authored by Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., has swelled since December, reaching 59 co-sponsors. Senate aides say a veto-proof majority — senators numbering well into the 70s — have pledged to support the bill if it comes to the Senate floor for a vote.
Menendez and Kirk have argued that the measure would not impact the negotiations because it gives Obama more than a year to continue diplomacy before any new sanctions would kick in.