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December 20, 2013 10:24 AM Senate Hardliners and Iran

By Ryan Cooper

Senator Menendez’s new sanctions bill is finally getting some pushback from other Senate Dems:

In a remarkable rebuke to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), 10 other Senate committee chairs are circulating a joint letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, urging him to reject an effort by Menendez to tighten sanctions on Iran and warning that his bill could disrupt ongoing nuclear negotiations.
The senators write in their letter that “at this time, as negotiations are ongoing, we believe that new sanctions would play into the hands of those in Iran who are most eager to see the negotiations fail.”

As I’ve said before, I think the parsimonious explanation here is that Menendez and company are actively trying to sabotage the negotiations—otherwise why on earth would they whip out a new sanctions bill only after a negotiations breakthrough seems close?

In any case, I’m strongly on the administration’s side on this one. For Obama’s many foreign policy faults, he has a healthy allergy to ground conflicts, and I think this push to reach some reconciliation with Iran is wholly positive. We owe it to our own soldiers and economy to do whatever we can to avoid another bloody catastrophe—not to mention the Iranian people, who are fairly pro-Western for the region and have suffering terribly under this sanctions regime.

UPDATE: Jim White over at Emptywheel has the list of Menendez’s 27 Senate co-sponsors. He aptly notes that the hardliners have shifted the goalposts:

Note that the current agreement does stop enrichment above 5%. It also calls for half of the 20% uranium to be diluted back down to 5% while the other half is converted to a chemical form for fuel that can’t easily be further enriched. Qom is not shut down, but the agreement does spell out specific numbers of centrifuges that can be used at the two enrichment sites.
But consider this for a moment. Most of what these war mongers were lobbying for last year actually appears in the interim agreement, and so they have been forced to move the goalposts in order to reach a point that they think won’t be part of the final agreement. What they want is a war to change the regime in Iran, not a diplomatic solution that prevents nuclear weapons being developed by Iran.
Ryan Cooper is a National Correspondent at The Week, and a former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @ryanlcooper

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