White House Argues 'Bad Faith' in Opposing New Sanctions Against Iran

Agreement on comprehensive and rigorous verification procedures would make the U.S. amenable to 'modest' enrichment, says White House spokeswoman.

Reuters

The White House reiterated on Tuesday that it opposes a fresh effort by some members of the United States Senate to impose new sanctions on Iran, even if they would not take effect for months.

Some senators have been discussing the idea of imposing new sanctions on Iran that would kick in after six months or if Iran violated terms of the interim deal reached in Geneva 10 days ago. The agreement was negotiated between Iran and the so-called P5+1 - the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany.

"If we pass sanctions now, even with the deferred trigger that has been discussed, the Iranians, and likely our international partners, will see us as having negotiated in bad faith," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

Many lawmakers are skeptical about the interim agreement and insist Washington should increase the pressure on Tehran by adding to sanctions.

Wendy Sherman, the U.S. Under-Secretary of State for political affairs who led the U.S. negotiating team in Geneva, was scheduled to hold a classified briefing on Iran for the entire House of Representatives on Wednesday morning.

Seeking to clarify some of the terms of the interim deal, a White House spokeswoman said the United States is prepared to accept some limited uranium enrichment by Iran in exchange for Tehran accepting strict verification procedures.

The United States does not recognize that Iran has a right to enrich, but "we are prepared to negotiate a strictly limited enrichment program in the end state," said Bernadette Meehan, spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council.

Iran, Meehan added, had indicated for the first time that it is prepared to accept "rigorous monitoring and limits on level, scope, capacity and stockpiles."

"If we can reach an understanding on all of these strict constraints, then we could have an arrangement that includes a very modest amount of enrichment that is tied to Iran's practical needs and that eliminates any near-term breakout capability," said Meehan.

Lawmakers believe it was tough sanctions pushed by Congress - not the White House - that brought Tehran to the table and see no reason not to spell out tough consequences if Iran does not comply with the interim deal.

Members of Congress, including many of President Barack Obama's fellow Democrats, are generally more hawkish on Iran than the administration, and influential pro-Israel lobbyists have been pressing lawmakers to keep to a tough line.

Congressional aides said it was too early to know whether an Iran sanctions package would be introduced as standalone legislation or as an amendment to a measure, such as a defense authorization bill, being considered by the Senate. It also was not clear how far any legislation would go in the Senate, where Obama's fellow Democrats control a majority of votes.

White House spokesman Jay Carney.Credit: AP