US senators and aides said Monday that a vote to impose tougher sanctions against Iran and its nuclear program will not take place until after the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.
“I don’t see anything happening until we get back,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters.
The likely delay will allow the Obama administration the time it has been lobbying for to pursue a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue in Geneva, where talks resume this week.
US Secretary of State John Kerry declined to predict Monday whether a deal would be struck between the P5+1 and the Islamic Republic.
“I have no specific expectations with respect to the negotiations in Geneva except that we will negotiate in good faith and we will try to get a first-step agreement and hope that Iran will understand the importance of coming there prepared to create a document that can prove to the world that this is a peaceful program,” he said.
President Barack Obama will meet with a number of key legislators representing four of the most powerful committees in the US Senate Tuesday. White House Spokesman Jay Carney downplayed the significance of the scheduled meeting, describing it as “very much in keeping with the method the president has employed thus far in this matter, that he consulted closely and regularly with members of the Senate on this issue.”
Carney described the meeting as a routine briefing on the P5+1 talks, a new round of which will begin in Geneva this week. He acknowledged, however, that Obama will discuss the issue of additional sanctions with the bipartisan group.
“It is the president’s view that it is the right thing for the Congress to do, to pause in order to test whether we can do this thing diplomatically,” Carney told reporters Monday afternoon.
The spokesman said that Washington’s goal in the talks is “to halt or slow down significant aspects of [Iran’s] nuclear program while we are checking to see if a comprehensive agreement is possible.”
He reiterated the administration’s insistence that any relief given to Iran as a result of an interim agreement “would be modest and eminently reversible” and that it would “leave in place the entire structure of the sanctions regime that has been in place and brought Iran to the table.”
Carney delivered a retort to Israeli claims that the sanctions relief could reach upwards of $40 billion, describing the claims as “significantly exaggerated.”
Among those invited to the meeting Tuesday is Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-SD), who has indicated support for sanctions at times, but has so far taken a wait-and-see approach prior to bringing any bill before his committee. Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a leading Democratic supporter of sanctions, is also slated to attend.
Republicans have been more strident in their opposition to the administration’s pleas for time. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) had both raised the possibility that Iran sanctions could be added to the debate over the National Defense Authorization Act, which is considered must-pass legislation for the administration.