The New York Times reports: Diplomats from the United States and five other countries are pursuing an accord that would cause Iran to freeze its nuclear program in exchange for the loosening of some of the sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy. Talks broke off this weekend but are scheduled to resume on Nov. 20.
But they are facing bipartisan doubt about their course. “I understand what they’re saying about destroying a chance for a peaceful outcome here with new sanctions, but I really do believe if the new sanctions were crafted in the right way, they would be more helpful than harmful,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina.
Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the third-ranking Democrat, was briefed Monday on the negotiations by Mr. Biden and has met with the White House chief of staff, Denis R. McDonough, as well as with cabinet officials. Yet he still proclaimed himself “dubious” of the possible agreement because of concerns that the administration might be willing to give too much away while getting too little in return.
In a letter to the editor in The New York Times last week and an opinion article in USA Today, Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the Democratic chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, indicated he would press forward against the administration’s wishes on the sanctions legislation.
“Iran is on the ropes because of its intransigent policies and our collective will, and it would be imprudent to want an agreement more than the Iranians do,” he wrote in USA Today on Monday. “Tougher sanctions will serve as an incentive for Iran to verifiably dismantle its nuclear weapons program.”
A powerful lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, issued its own broadside. “Aipac continues to support congressional action to adopt legislation to further strengthen sanctions, and there will absolutely be no pause, delay or moratorium in our efforts,” the group’s president, Michael Kassen, said in a statement this month.
But the group’s officials are taking a wait-and-see stance for now. If the talks collapse on their own, the group can avoid wading into a political donnybrook, but if a diplomatic breakthrough is achieved, Aipac is ready to mount an aggressive campaign to stop it, according to one person familiar with its thinking. [Continue reading…]