Daily Israel Report

Congressmen Demand More Sanctions on Iran

As Geneva talks end, Republican lawmakers express their skepticism and call for tougher sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 10/17/2013, 5:13 AM

U.S. Congress
U.S. Congress
AFP photo

Demands in Congress grew on Wednesday for a speedy escalation of sanctions against Iran as two days of nuclear talks ended in Geneva.

Even as negotiations between world powers and Iran ended on an upbeat note, with a new round of discussions set for November, lawmakers seeking to end a government shutdown back in Washington quickly expressed their skepticism and laid out red lines for the talks, reported The Associated Press.

Members of both parties have overwhelmingly backed tougher economic pressure on Iran in recent years amid concern it is closing in on nuclear weapons capability.

“Given Iran’s continued refusal to halt its illicit nuclear and ballistic missile programs, the Senate should immediately move forward with a new round of economic sanctions targeting all remaining Iranian government revenue and reserves,” said Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, who has played a leading role in drafting sanctions, according to AP.

Another lawmaker, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, introduced a Senate resolution calling for more pressure.

“No one should be impressed by what Iran appears to have brought to the table in Geneva,” Rubio was quoted by AP as having said.

“Tehran has broken its word far too many times to be trusted. Due to its complete disregard for previous international agreements, we must take a firm stand in all negotiations regarding the nuclear capabilities Iran is permitted to retain,” he noted.

He echoed a statement by six Democratic and four Republican senators on Tuesday, insisting Iran end all uranium enrichment activity.

That demand could put them at odds with President Barack Obama, who recently recognized Iran’s right to nuclear energy after his historic phone conversation with Iran’s new President Hassan Rouhani.

Obama, however, hasn’t said enrichment is acceptable in Iran, as Tehran demands. The issue remains a key one for international negotiators to resolve.

Rouhani, who has been described as a moderate and who assumed office two months ago, has pledged transparency on Iran's controversial nuclear program in an effort to get crippling UN sanctions lifted.

The Senate Banking Committee is expected to draft new sanctions shortly after the government reopens, largely mirroring a House bill that passed overwhelmingly by a 400-20 vote in July and blacklisted Iran’s mining and construction sectors. It also called for all Iranian oil sales to end by 2015.

The Senate’s bill may narrow that timeframe, block international investment in more economic sectors, try to close off Iran’s foreign accounts and tighten Obama’s ability to waive requirements for allies and key trading partners who continue to do business with Iran, an aide involved in the process told AP.

Israel has warned the world that Rouhani is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and would present moderate views while continuing to develop Iran’s nuclear program.

Asked about its position on sanctions post-Geneva, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki was cautious. She credited existing restrictions with bringing Iran to the negotiating table but suggested the U.S. needed more time to assess Iran’s plan.

“We have never had detailed technical discussions at this level before,” she told reporters. “There is, of course, a great deal more work that needs to be done.”

The White House said earlier Wednesday that Iran showed a greater level of "seriousness and substance" in the latest round of nuclear talks.

Israel has said that anything short of a cessation of uranium enrichment would not safeguard the Middle East and the world from the reality of an Iran with a nuclear weapon.