|Follow us on:|
US President Barack Obama met with Democrats from the House of Representatives and the Senate in a bid to persuade them to withdraw support for legislation that would impose a new batch of economic sanctions on Iran should it fail to meet the tenets of an agreement to curb its uranium enrichment programme.
Meeting with a number of lawmakers from his own party in the East Room of the White House Wednesday evening, the president urged lawmakers to give his administration six months to test Iran’s resolve.
Earlier this week, bipartisan efforts in Congress to threaten more punitive sanctions if Iran does not abide by the November agreement appeared to gain momentum.
On Monday, Obama warned that his preference is for diplomatic channels to take their course.
“This is one of the reasons why I’ve sent a message to Congress that now is not the time for us to impose new sanctions,” he said at the White House.
His lobbying against a new sanctions threat came a day after Tehran agreed with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany (collectively known as the P5 + 1) to begin as of January 20 to destroy its stockpile of enriched uranium and some of the equipment used in the enrichment process.
But by late Monday, 58 senators ignored Obama’s appeal. The president has threatened to resort to a veto to reject their proposed legislation. However, if the bloc supporting new Iran sanctions are able to get more than 67 senators in total, they have the legal application to override the President’s veto.
White House pundits are concerned.
The underlying theme of the sanctions legislation is that Obama’s foreign policy on Iran is misplaced because – as some have pointed out, namely Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – Tehran cannot be trusted to play a role as a regional security partner.
Netanyahu has previously called the agreement a “historic mistake”.
Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) has said the agreement could be a “dangerous step that degrades our pressure on the Iranian regime” and cited North Korea as an example of a failed policy.
Nevertheless, Obama appears to have centred his foreign policy legacy on the agreement, which he says should through diplomatic means produce a comprehensive deal with Iran to finally terminate any suspicions Iran is weaponising its nuclear energy programme.
“This is the most tangible progress we have reached with Iran since I took office,” Obama has insisted.
Some of Washington’s most powerful lawmakers agree.
“The interim agreement with Iran is strong, it is tough, and it is realistic,” said California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is also the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“It represents the first significant opportunity to change a three-decade course in Iran and an opening to improve one of our most poisonous bilateral relationships.”