Senate Republicans are hoping to vote on a bill Thursday aimed at putting the brakes on the Obama administration’s plans for a nuclear pact with the Iranians.
The legislation, called the Iran Nuclear Negotiations Act and initially introduced in July, would require Congress to approve any final nuclear deal with Iran, Politico
reported, noting that the current interim agreement expires later this month.
Republicans are afraid that any deal with Iran will eventually result in the Middle East country building a nuclear weapon, and they support Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demands
that prevent Iranians from having a uranium enrichment program.
The GOP thinks that President Barack Obama’s nuclear policy is "dangerously weak" toward Tehran’s anti-American Islamic regime, according to Politico.
"I want to start [the Iran] discussion Thursday, and hopefully we’ll bring the bill up," said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, adding that in any event he hopes incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will push for new Iran sanctions in January.
Democrats, who will control the Senate until January, are expected to throw out the legislation. They believe that renewed pressure on Iran to cut back on its nuclear program will lead to Iranians walking away from the negotiating table and eventually to war, Politico says.
Although a group of Democrats backed GOP measures for stiff new sanctions against Iran earlier this year, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has managed to keep them under control. But the GOP plans to go on the offensive against a nuclear deal after the lame-duck session.
"The Hill has a lot of power to make things miserable for the president," said Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, which advises the GOP on Iran legislation.
A year ago in Geneva, the U.S. and five other world powers — Russia, China, France, Great Britain, and Germany — struck a deal with Iran, expiring Nov. 24, that put a hold on its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of certain financial sanctions.
Last weekend, Secretary of State John Kerry met with Iranian officials in Oman in an effort to hammer out a new long-term agreement that would allow Iran to continue with its nuclear energy program without having the ability to build an atomic bomb.
However, the discussions apparently did not go well, and a planned press conference at the end of the talks was canceled, according to Politico.
"As best I can tell, [there was] no progress," said Gary Samore, a former Obama White House aide who handled the Iranian nuclear dealings and is now president of United Against a Nuclear Iran. Samore believes that the interim deal, which has already been extended once in July, will be extended again into 2015.
Sources tell Politico that another extension would likely lead to the GOP introducing a Senate bill similar to one sponsored last year by Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez and Sen. Mark Kirk, and backed by 15 Democrats, that called for new sanctions against Iran if it violates the interim deal or abandons negotiations altogether.
However, a senior administration official warns that Republicans could be leading the U.S. down a dangerous path by blocking a long-term deal with the Iranians.
"You’re going to vote no — what’s that a vote for?" said the official. "So you think we should go to war?"
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