Washington Split Over Baghdad Talks' Ability to Thwart Iran Nuclear Program

Some senators believe talks just chance for Iran to buy time, others think diplomacy will succeed in ending Iran's drive for nuclear armament.

This week, while the U.S. Senate sent a harsh message to Iran by approving new sanctions aimed at its oil industry and financial system, - there were also voices expressing support for the negotiations with Iran.

Wednesday morning, about 25 senators - members of the Democratic Steering and Outreach committee, met with representatives of Jewish organizations. "Senators seemed to be talking about parameters of what an acceptable deal with Iran would be - not the presumed absence of the deal," one of the meeting participants told Haaretz.

"The assumption that something is going to get out of these negotiations, that's a change."

And while Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, this week called an agreement between Iran and the IAEA "yet another stalling tactic to afford the Iranian regime greater time to acquire nuclear weapons capabilities" - 71 members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama, expressing their support of talks with Iran.

Representatives David Price (D-NC) and David Dreier (R-CA), joined by 69 colleagues, wrote they are "aware of the possibility that the Iranian regime is simply "buying time" to further its nuclear ambitions, but we believe that Iran's declared openness to multilateral discussions - coupled with verifiable intermediate steps to bring its program toward compliance with international obligations - is sufficient to warrant renewed determination. Under these circumstances, the United States and its P5+1 partners must not relent in leveraging pressure on Iran in these upcoming talks."

Americans for Peace Now President and CEO Debra DeLee said that "recent actions in the House may have sent a message that House members are not wholly supportive of ongoing diplomatic efforts to deal with Iran. This letter helps correct that impression, making clear that these diplomatic efforts have strong, bipartisan congressional backing, and setting out a clearer statement regarding congressional intent regarding ‘nuclear weapons capability.’"

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Wednesday's briefing that the package offered to Iran in Baghdad talks includes "first steps" meant to see how Teheran reacts to that proposal. "If they are willing to do more than that - we'll be delighted", she said. "Iran is feeling bite from the sanctions and they are back at the table because they feel this bite from the sanctions."