Obama Urged Hawkish Democrats to Delay Iran Vote

Obama Urged Hawkish Democrats to Delay Iran Vote Obama Urged Hawkish Democrats to Delay Iran Vote

The Obama administration reportedly asked hawkish US Senate Democrats last month to delay a vote imposing new sanctions on Iran by two months.

According to an article by Al-Monitor which was published on Monday, "Some Democratic senators who have signed onto a letter from Senator Bob Menendez to President Obama have told interlocutors that the Obama administration asked them to give it until the end of March to see if a framework deal could be reached, before voting on new Iran sanctions legislation."

"Sources said that it was their understanding that President Obama asked the Senate Democratic caucus at their retreat last month to give him until the end of March to see if negotiators could reach a framework deal, rather than repeating what State Department officials have said about leaving open the possibility that negotiators could need until the end of June to finish a deal," Al-Monitor reported.

Iran and the major powers reached a preliminary nuclear deal in Geneva in November 2013, under which Iran agreed to temporarily scale down parts of its nuclear work in return for a limited easing of sanctions.

The two sides failed to meet a self-imposed deadline to resolve the long-running dispute over Tehran's nuclear work last November and agreed to extend the negotiations for seven more months. They are now seeking to narrow differences to reach a framework agreement that sets key parameters by March 31 and a final deal by June 30 that completes the detailed technical aspects.

Nevertheless, despite the ongoing talks, hawkish US lawmakers are pushing for a bill that would levy more sanctions on Iran if it failed to reach a final nuclear deal with the major powers by the deadline in an attempt to pressure Iran to yield to US demands, including a call for a sharp cut in Tehran's uranium enrichment capacity. 

The co-author of legislation, Senator Robert Menendez, said late last month he and other Democrats would not back passage of the bill unless nuclear talks failed to produce a general understanding by March 24. The US Senate Banking Committee voted last week to advance the new sanctions bill. However, the bill is not expected to come up for a vote in the full Senate until at least March 24.

Obama has said the imposition of new sanctions on Iran would prompt the country to walk away from nuclear talks with the major powers, "an outcome no one wants." He has said he would veto any sanctions legislation that the US Congress adopts while the talks are underway.

Lawmakers in Iran also introduced their response to US Congress's effort on Tuesday through approving the urgency of bringing to the floor a bill that would require the government to step up its nuclear activities if new sanctions were imposed.