White House tries to sustain Iran deal

U.S. top nuclear negotiator Sherman failed to convince some senators to withdraw from a decision to impose new sanctions on Iran

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As the White House ratcheted up its effort to placate political opposition to an interim Iran nuclear deal, top U.S. nuclear negotiator Wendy Sherman failed to convince senators to hold off imposing new sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

The While House fears that imposing new sanctions could prompt Iran to ditch diplomacy.

Sherman apparently failed to convince the skeptics after holding a closed briefing with the senators.

“Really I’m more disturbed now than ever after the briefing,” Agence France-Presse quoted Republican Senator Lindsey Graham as saying.

“The endgame being contemplated is not even in the ballpark of what I would consider the endgame,” he added.

The pro-sanctions camp believe it has at least 59 votes in the Senate and a healthy majority in the House of Representatives and could be approaching the two-thirds majority needed to override the veto Obama has promised, AFP reported.

However, it is still unclear whether Senate Majority leader Harry Reid will avoid embarrassing fellow Democrat Obama and bring the sanctions bill up for a vote.


Republican Senator Bob Corker meanwhile suggested a compromise position, noting that U.S. officials agreed to impose no new sanctions for the six-month duration of the interim deal.

“Why don’t we schedule a vote for July 21,” he said. “If they haven’t reached an agreement that we believe is satisfactory, let’s implement on that day.”

The summary of “technical understandings” between Iran and world powers sets the terms of a deal reached in Geneva last year, which will be implemented by the U.N. watchdog the International Economic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials.

It lists Iranian nuclear facilities to be inspected and a timetable for entry by IAEA officials and contains a payment schedule for nearly $7 billion in blocked Iranian foreign exchange holdings which will be released under terms of the deal.

The administration also made a more detailed document available to a restricted audience of lawmakers and aides in Congress, in line with the IAEA’s wish to keep some aspects of the pact confidential, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Opponents of the interim nuclear deal between the P5+1 group of powers and Iran warn that it gave up too much in return for what they see as paltry concessions from the Islamic Republic.

The summary was released amid rising speculation that Secretary of State John Kerry could meet Iranian President Hassan Rowhani at the World Economic Forum in Davos next week.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said there were no meetings so far to announce but noted Kerry would be in the Swiss resort at the same time as “a number of Iranian officials.”

The summary confirmed that, under the deal, Iran would halt production of near 20 percent uranium and start to dilute the uranium stockpile it already has.

New impositions

Meanwhile, former Pentagon chief Robert Gates warned Thursday that imposing new sanctions on Iran would be a mistake.

“I think that the president’s opposition to a bill that would impose additional sanctions now is absolutely right,” Gates said at an event highlighting his newly released memoir.

“To vote additional sanctions today would be I think a deal-killer,” said Gates, who served as defense secretary under President Barack Obama and his predecessor, George W. Bush.

He added: “As hard as it may be for people to realize, what we may be seeing is the success of the sanctions effort done by president (Bill) Clinton, intensified by president Bush and even more so by president Obama, to force the Iranians to come to the table because of economic hardships.”

“I think we have succeeded to the extent that we now have the Iranians at the table.”

He pointed to the clear effect of economic pressure on the Islamic Republic.

The interim deal, meant to buy time for detailed negotiations to foil what the West sees as Tehran’s drive for nuclear weapons, will go into force on Jan. 20.

(With AFP)