What’s Behind The New Iran Sanctions Bill?

When I hear senators say they want to enact harsh new anti-Iran sanctions that the administration says can do more harm than good to the nuclear negotiations I am reminded of the angry parent who tells a child that the spanking he’s about to get “hurts me more than it hurts you, but it’s for your own good.”

A bipartisan group of senators wants to enact a tough new sanctions bill that the administration says is unnecessary and could potentially scuttle the sensitive negotiations.

Each side vigorously insists that its approach is the best way to make sure Iran does not build a nuclear bomb that it could use on Israel. 

The administration says there will be no problem passing new and tougher sanctions if the talks fail, but the interim agreement calls for no additional sanctions during the six months while a permanent deal is negotiated.  The Iranians have said new sanctions will be an act of bad faith and they’ll walk.

They’re just bluffing, said the group led by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL).  If the Iranians are serious about making a deal — which most of these senators strongly doubt — they won’t quit.  Besides, the lawmakers say, the new sanctions won’t take effect for another six months to a year unless the talks break down. All they’re doing, they maintain, is enhance the president’s negotiating position and warn the Iranians of the consequences of failure.

Thanks but no thanks, said the President at his year-end press conference.  “The Iranians have no doubt Congress will be willing to enact more sanctions,” he said.  And if the talks fail, he added, he’d be out front in pushing to dramatically increase the pressure on Tehran and he reminded everyone that “all option” (read: military) remain on the table. 

The Schumer group has the backing of most Jewish organizations, led by AIPAC, which are conducting a full-court-press on Capitol Hill to oppose the administration.  The Israeli government is taking a low profile but no one doubts it is backing the campaign.

Read more about this showdown, that could come to a vote in the Senate early next month, in my Washington Watch column.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.