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Congressional Brawl over Proposed
Bill To Impose New Sanctions on Iran

Dec. 23, 2013 (EIRNS)—The introduction of legislation by a bipartisan group of 26 U.S. Senators calling for imposing sanctions on Iran, together with other punitive measures, has provoked a brawl in the Congress, and statements from high-ranking State Department and White House officials, who warn that any such action at this point will undermine ongoing negotiations and could lead to war.

The Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013, introduced Dec. 22, is sponsored by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), along with 23 other Senators. It calls for imposing sanctions should Iran violate the interim agreement, or fail to reach a final agreement within six months. It also demands additional reductions in purchases of Iranian petroleum and creates more penalties for parts of the Iranian economy, including engineering, mining and construction, ABC News reports.

Divisions are out in the open. Ten Democratic Senate committee chairs are circulating a letter they sent to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Utah) urging him to reject Menendez's legislation, warning that "we believe that new sanctions would play into the hands of those in Iran who are most eager to see the negotiations fail." A senior White House official told the Huffington Post that "passing new sanctions would split the international community, embolden Iranian hardliners, and likely derail the prospect of a diplomatic resolution." White House press secretary Jay Carney said that President Obama would veto the bill, were it to reach his desk.

In an article published in Politico on Dec. 18, under the headline "Now's No Time for New Iran Sanctions," Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) warned that time must be allowed "for the U.S. and its allies to explore the possibility of a peaceful resolution.... It is in our nation's interests and in the interest of our friends and allies. It is clearly what the American people want and expect." The United States "has an obligation to test the willingness of Iran's leaders."

The senators' argument was amplified by a number of prominent diplomats in an article posted Dec 6 in the elite, Washington-based establishment Mideast journal al-Monitor. There, former U.S. Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering, former Iran nuclear negotiator Seyed Hossein Mousavian, and former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer jointly warn that any failure to fully meet either side's obligations under the recent Iran agreement will result in a major disaster, meaning a war. "There is no room for delays, obfuscations, excuses," they declare.

Two articles Dec. 19 on antiwar.com, one by columnist Jim Lobe and the other by former CIA intelligence officer Phil Giraldi, zero in on the role of Israel and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), pointing out that both Menendez and Kirk are two of the largest recipients of funding from pro-Israel political action committees. Giraldi labels the pro-sanctions legislators as "Quislings" in the service of a foreign power. If talks are sabotaged, he warns, there will be war. There are no other options.