New Sanctions Would "Blow up" Nuclear Talks

New Sanctions Would "Blow up" Nuclear Talks
New Sanctions Would "Blow up" Nuclear Talks

Placing additional sanctions on Iran would "blow up" negotiations over Tehran's nuclear program, US National Security Advisor Susan Rice said on Tuesday.

"The P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) would fracture, the international community would blame the United States rather than Iran for the collapse of the negotiations, and the Iranians would conclude that there’s little point in pursuing this process at the negotiating table," Rice said at a conference hosted by the Wall Street Journal, the Hill reported.

Both Republicans and Democrats have called for the US Congress to impose additional sanctions on Iran.

While those efforts have been stymied by Senate Democratic leaders, the Republican takeover of the upper chamber could clear the way for tougher sanctions. The administration is reportedly looking for a way to avoid having to get congressional approval for a deal. A successful agreement would be a major foreign policy achievement for US President Barack Obama.

  Sherman to Brief Congress

AFP also reported on Wednesday that top US diplomats will this week make a "strong case" to lawmakers to hold off on fresh Iran sanctions, hoping to avoid an ugly political showdown which could scupper the nuclear talks. US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who has led the US delegation in the negotiations for months, will be at the vanguard of an administration drive to persuade Congress not to push ahead with draft legislation which would slap even more sanctions on Iran.

Sherman will brief lawmakers behind closed doors on Thursday, a State Department spokeswoman said Tuesday, ahead of a flurry of consultations over the next two weeks. The United States and its global partners in the P5+1 last week missed a second deadline to nail down a comprehensive deal with Iran to resolve the 12-year dispute over its nuclear work.

Instead, the seven nations agreed to extend an existing interim deal for a further seven months until June 30, with the hopes of drawing up a framework accord by March.

Under the interim deal, Iran receives limited access to its frozen oil revenues in exchange for temporarily scaling down parts of its nuclear program. Tehran has long denied seeking a nuclear bomb, saying its activities are purely for peaceful purposes. But Western powers claim Iran may have been in pursuit of nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian program.

"We will make a very strong case to them why now is not the time for new sanctions," deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters of Sherman's planned meetings in Congress.

"We'll make it publicly. We'll make it privately. We'll make it at all levels because we believe very strongly in it." Officials would spell out to skeptical lawmakers the progress that has been made over the past months of negotiations, Harf said. "We can't, obviously, share every single detail, to preserve the integrity of the negotiations," she said, but insisted lawmakers should "keep in investing in diplomacy."

Experts have warned Tehran would be infuriated by new sanctions which would also risk eroding international support for the economic embargo and alienate other allies such as Turkey, India and China.

"Look, we know one of the reasons Iran is at the negotiating table today, if not the biggest reason, is because of the sanctions that Congress put in place, sanctions the secretary of state wholeheartedly supported," Harf said. "So sanctions played a key role here." She stressed again however that now is "not the time for new sanctions." Iran says it has engaged in the talks with the major powers and increased its cooperation with the UN nuclear agency to prove to the world that its nuclear activities are only meant for peaceful purposes to end an "unnecessary" international dispute, denying the claim that sanctions have compelled it to sit at the negotiating table.