Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting privately with members of the Senate Banking Committee Wednesday to urge them not to impose further sanctions on Iran until negotiations with the Islamic Republic progress further. Congress is considering a bill that would further target Iranian oil exports in attempt to derail the country's nuclear development.
Kerry and European diplomats were engaged in negotiations with Iran in Geneva, Switzerland, over the weekend. They ultimately proved unsuccessful, however, when the deal worked out by the U.S. Secretary of State and his French counterpart was rejected by Iran.
The Middle Eastern country maintains that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, and has repeatedly declined to cease development. Iran has subsequently been subjected to harsh economic sanctions.
Negotiations will resume November 20, and for the moment the Obama administration wants Congress to refrain from imposing further sanctions to allow the diplomatic approach to fully play out. "It is important to understand that if pursuing a resolution diplomatically is disallowed or ruled out, what options, then, do we and our allies have to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon?" said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. "The American people do not want a march to war."
Some members of Congress, however, argue that further sanctions would only give the United States further leverage in bargaining negotiations.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said that while everyone would prefer a peaceful, democratic resolution, an "Iranian Charm offensive" shouldn't derail the United States from taking concrete steps to punish the country for its continued evasion of international nuclear treaties:
Tougher sanctions will serve as an incentive for Iran to verifiably dismantle its nuclear weapons program. When Iran complies, sanctions can be unwound and economic relief will follow.
This approach is in concert with our diplomatic efforts and consistent with previous actions taken by the international community. It's a necessary insurance policy, too. Should Iran fail to negotiate in good faith or abide by any agreement, the penalties will be severe.
The United States and Iran have been crawling tentatively towards warmer relations since President Hassan Rouhani took office this year. President Barack Obama spoke via phone with Rouhani in September, the first time leaders of the two nations have talked directly since 1979.
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