January 10, 2013, Washington, D.C. – This week 25 additional Senators have become cosponsors of the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013 (S.1881), bringing the total number of cosponsors to 59. Introduced by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) on December 19, 2013, the legislation sets to expand and impose additional sanctions against Iran. PAAIA is concerned that the bill could potentially derail ongoing negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, impeding U.S. diplomacy and weakening our ability to maintain the international coalition on sanctions against Iran.
While the bill may not technically violate the Joint Action Plan reached between the P5+1 and Iran over its nuclear program, critics view it as breaching the spirit of the interim agreement reached in Geneva and as an attempt to obstruct the diplomatic process by seeking to impose unrealistic terms on a final agreement.
The bill, which the President has threatened to veto, entails further sanctions on Iran’s oil exports and would apply new economic penalties on other commerce if Iran either violates the interim agreement or a final comprehensive agreement is not reached with Iran. The White House believes the legislation could risk derailing the interim agreement by splintering the international coalition cooperating on sanctions. They have indicated their willingness to work with Congress and to implement new sanctions if and when Iran violates the terms of current agreement or if a final deal is unattainable.
While the bill has gained momentum, it remains unclear whether it can gain enough support for a veto-proof majority which requires a two thirds majority (66) in the Senate. Last month, ten Senate Democratic committee chairs circulated a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid noting a recent US Intelligence Community assessment that new sanctions would undermine the prospects for a comprehensive agreement and requested that they be consulted prior to any motions to consider such legislation.
A group of senior national security and foreign policy experts sent a letter this week to the supporters of S.1881 asking that they reconsider the legislation, indicating that it could potentially move the United States closer to a war with Iran.
A 2013 National Public Opinion Survey of Iranian Americans by PAAIA shows that Iranian Americans support President Obama’s handling of Iran’s nuclear program by a margin of fifty-nine percent (59%) to twenty percent (20%). More than two-thirds (sixty-eight percent) say that they would support the removal of sanctions if the Iranian regime reached an agreement with the U.S. and the international community concerning its nuclear program.
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