Obama Opposes Sanctions Legislation

Obama Opposes Sanctions Legislation
Obama Opposes Sanctions Legislation

US President Barack Obama expressed strong opposition to any new sanctions on Iran, saying such a move could scuttle the talks between Tehran and the major powers on a final deal to resolve the long-running nuclear dispute.   

Obama made the remarks in a meeting with members of the congressional leadership on Tuesday, according to a statement posted on the website of the White House.   

“The president also underscored the importance of our diplomatic efforts aimed at preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, reiterating his strong opposition to additional sanctions legislation that could derail the negotiations and isolate the United States from our international coalition,” the statement said.

Iran denies the allegation that it may have been seeking to develop the capability to build nuclear weapons, saying its nuclear program is solely for peaceful applications, such as power generation.

Some US senators have said they intend to bring a bill before the US Congress which would impose sanctions on Iran if it walks away from the nuclear negotiations or violates the terms of nuclear agreements with the major powers. Some US lawmakers are also seeking to pass a bill that would require congressional approval of any final deal with Iran.

The US State Department spokesperson also said during a press briefing on Tuesday that new sanctions on Iran would run counter to the interim deal that Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) clinched in November 2013, which is officially called the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), according to a transcript of her remarks posted on the website of the State Department.

She said, "A sanctions bill, trigger or not, that is passed and signed into law by the president – which we have said we will not do – but in your hypothetical, right, even if there's a trigger, to the Iranians, to the rest of the world, and in our minds would be a violation of the JPOA.

"That even with a trigger, if there's a bill that's signed into law and it is US law, in our mind that is a violation of the Joint Plan of Action, which as we've said could encourage Iran to violate it, could encourage Iran to start moving its nuclear program back forward, and that we believe we have to give this diplomatic process, as Ambassador Power said, time to see if we can get to an agreement. And if we can't, we can put sanction – additional sanctions on in 24 hours."

The US envoy to the United Nations said on Monday it is still possible to reach a nuclear deal with Iran, but new US congressional sanctions could seriously undermine prospects for an agreement and end up isolating Washington instead of Tehran, Reuters reported.

"If we pull the trigger on new nuclear-related sanctions now, we will go from isolating Iran to potentially isolating ourselves," she said.

"Some members of Congress believe that the time has come to ratchet up sanctions on Iran," she said, adding, "We in the administration believe that, at this time, increasing sanctions would dramatically undermine our efforts to reach this shared goal."

"We are still at the negotiating table for one reason, and one reason alone," she said. "We assess that we still have a credible chance of reaching the agreement we want."

The moment the Obama administration decides it is not possible to reach a deal with Tehran, she noted, it will join Congress in pushing for new sanctions.