US Senator: Iran Gaining Ground on World Stage

US Senator: Iran Gaining Ground on World Stage
US Senator: Iran Gaining Ground on World Stage

A Democratic US senator says Iran is gaining momentum on the international stage after the US extended relief from economic sanctions against the country until June 30 during talks over its nuclear program.

"The Iranian (government) is scoring points," said Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, who served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for more than six years. "They frankly look better than they did a few months ago because they've been engaged in negotiations and dialogue."

"I worry that over time that these current sanctions have less significance," Casey said at a Bloomberg News breakfast in Washington on Tuesday.

Iran initially was given limited relief from the US sanctions from January 20 to July 20, 2014, and it was extended until this July as negotiations over its nuclear program continued. US and European sanctions have limited foreign investment and hindered exports of Iran's oil, its most important source of foreign exchange earnings.  Some in Congress, including Casey, have supported stronger sanctions against Iran. Casey said he thinks there will be a vote on sanctions before the July deadline for the nuclear negotiations, and he contended that would help maintain pressure on Iran.

The senator said he worries that some White House officials may be incorrectly sending a message that an agreement with Iran must happen now to be favorable to US interests.

"I don't necessarily buy that," Casey said. The US should at least have the threat of imposing enhanced sanctions, he said. US administration officials say that adding more sanctions while the negotiations are under way would threaten to derail the talks and eliminate any chance of reaching an agreement on Tehran's nuclear program.