As Iran and the six world powers resume the next round of nuclear talks in Geneva on Wednesday, US President Barack Obama pleads with American senators to ignore the aggressive lobbying campaign by Israel and hold off on new sanctions against Tehran.
During a two-hour White House meeting on Tuesday, Obama called on senators to give more time for diplomacy with the Islamic Republic, The Hill reports.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told reporters after the meeting that the Obama administration believes a preliminary deal with Iran may be at hand.
“They are very explicit about what they think they may be able to achieve,” Corker said.
Members of Congress in both parties have been somewhat skeptical toward the nuclear talks.
On Tuesday, lawmakers in both the House and Senate sent the administration bipartisan letters urging President Obama to adopt a tougher line with Iran when negotiators meet again on Wednesday.
“We feel strongly that any easing of sanctions along the lines that [the international community] is reportedly considering should require Iran to roll back its nuclear program more significantly than now envisioned,” six senators wrote in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry.
The letter, signed by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), urges US negotiators to demand that Iran suspend all uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities.
White House press secretary Jay Carney acknowledged Tuesday that there was “obvious diversity of opinion in the room” about the necessity of holding off on new sanctions.
Obama assured the senators that “the relief that we are considering as part of a first step is limited, temporary, and reversible,” Carney said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been struggling in recent weeks to persuade US senators to buck Obama and consider new sanctions against Iran at a time when negotiators from both sides are saying a deal is “quite possible” over Tehran’s nuclear energy program.
“I think you should not only keep up the pressure; I think you should increase the pressure,” Netanyahu said in an interview with CNN on Sunday.
Netanyahu’s economy and trade minister, Naftali Bennett, visited Washington last week, actively lobbying US lawmakers to act against Tehran. Israeli ambassador to the US Ron Dermer will also meet with congressional Republicans and Democrats this week over Iran.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed an anti-Iran sanctions bill in July by a 400-20 vote seeking to cut Iran’s oil exports by one million barrels a day for the next year. The Senate Banking Committee is currently looking at a similar version of the bill.