White House Seeks to Prevent New Iran Sanctions

White House Seeks to Prevent New Iran Sanctions
White House Seeks to Prevent New Iran Sanctions

White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer says the Obama administration will continue consultations with the US Congress to prevent any new sanctions legislation against Iran, which it believes could derail the talks between Iran and the major powers on a final deal to resolve the long-running dispute over Tehran's nuclear program.

Pfeiffer, who was speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, also said, "It does not make any sense for Congress to scuttle that deal ... because that would put America in a bad place, not just in dealing with Iran but with the world," the Associated Press reported.  

A leading Republican critic of President Barack Obama's foreign policy also said on the same program that he is pushing new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, unswayed by a White House veto threat and lobbying by Britain's leader.

Senator Lindsey Graham said he would be willing to set aside his efforts if Obama would submit any agreement with Tehran to Congress for lawmakers to approve or reject.  

The Obama adviser scoffed at the idea as an infringement on presidential authority.

The new GOP-led Congress has picked an early foreign policy fight with the president, with the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee holding a hearing Tuesday on possible new sanctions against Tehran.

The US and its partners in the negotiations are trying to reach a framework agreement with Iran by March and hoping to complete a long-term deal by July that would impose constraints on Tehran's nuclear work in exchange for a phasing out of sanctions.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have stepped up their talks, and they may hold further discussions this week when both are expected to attend the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

The proposed sanctions, which have bipartisan support, would go into effect only if the negotiations fail and the June 30 deadline is not met, according to a congressional aide who spoke on background because the bill has not been finalized.

Graham described congressional efforts as signaling to the Iranians that "we would like a political negotiation, a diplomatic solution. But please understand in Iran that Congress is intent on reapplying sanctions if you walk away from the negotiating table and if you cheat," Graham said. "I don't think that's a disruptive message."

***Demanding Say on Final Deal  

As an alternative, he said if Obama "thinks sanctions are disruptive to a good outcome, I'm willing to forgo that vote with the understanding that any deal he negotiates will come to Congress for our approval or disapproval as a check and balance."

Pfeiffer contended that Graham "would like to make all the foreign policy decisions of the United States and be commander in chief. ... It's the president's authority."

Obama said at a news conference on Friday that imposing new sanctions probably would doom the nuclear negotiations and heighten prospects of a military showdown. "Just hold your fire," the president pleaded to Congress, while also issuing the veto threat.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, who was visiting Washington last week, said he was calling senators to convey the message that new penalties would hurt international unity.

Senator Marco Rubio also said on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday that the United States Congress should impose new sanctions against Iran.

"I believe we need additional sanctions," he said, adding, "I believe any deal with Iran requires congressional approval, and I hope we'll move quickly in the new Congress to pass both of those. Look, the only reason Iran is even at the table is because of existing sanctions. And these negotiations that are going on now are really not going to bear fruit."

Iran denies the claim that sanctions compelled it to sit at negotiating table, saying it has engaged in the nuclear negotiations to help resolve an "unnecessary" dispute to pave the way for improving its foreign relations.   

Rubio alleged that Iran views the negotiations as "nothing but an effort to buy time to gain some sanctions relief" while not giving up any irreversible concessions.

"So I'm not optimistic these talks are going to lead to anywhere anyways, and we need to have in place sanctions that kick in when those talks fail," he said.