US Senate leaders demand progress reports on Iran
Distrustful top Democrats seek assurances that Tehran is complying with the terms of the interim deal reached in Geneva
Top Senate Democrats sent a letter Friday to the director of National Intelligence, asking for progress reports every 45 days on whether or not Iran is complying with the terms of an interim agreement reached with the P5+1 world powers last month in Geneva.
The senators, heads of the Banking, Intelligence and Armed Services Committees, also asked James Clapper for a report by December 12 on any effect that new Congressional sanctions could have on negotiations with Iran. The P5+1 — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany — and Iran are expected to resume talks shortly to work out the technical details of last month’s agreement, which has yet to take effect.
If Tehran adheres to the inspection and verification system included in the Geneva deal, the letter by Senators Tim Johnson, Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin read, “this will help to build confidence that, at least in the short term, Iran will be unable to pose a credible military threat to its neighbors in the region, including Israel.”
The Obama administration has urged US legislators to not impose further sanctions for the time being, warning they could be detrimental to ongoing talks. During negotiations over an interim deal in November, Iran agreed to significantly limit its nuclear program in exchange for an easing of crippling economic sanctions.
Many in the US Congress, however, including members of the president’s party, distrust Tehran and want to ensure that the tough international sanctions regime built over recent years does not collapse, thereby potentially speeding Iran’s progress to nuclear weapons capability.
Visiting Israel Thursday and Friday for the first time since the interim deal with Iran was signed, US Secretary of State John Kerry did his utmost to repair any damage the agreement may have caused to Israeli-US relations.
Thoroughly aware that his host, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is highly critical of Washington’s latest moves in the Middle East, Kerry went beyond the usual diplomatic niceties, offering promises and pledges vis-a-vis Israel’s concerns and demands.
Regarding Iran, the US top diplomat couldn’t offer any concrete steps or policy statements that would satisfy Jerusalem, but he asserted that “Israel’s security in this negotiation [with Iran] is at the top of our agenda.”
“The United States will do everything in our power to make certain that Iran’s nuclear program — a program of weaponization possibilities — is terminated,” Kerry pledged. Attempting to assuage widespread fears that the temporary deal hatched last month in Geneva would become a permanent situation, Kerry said Jerusalem and Washington “agree on what the goal of the final status agreement ought to be.”
Israel’s demands have been clear: Iran must not be left with any enriched uranium and needs to dismantle all facilities that could be used to produce nuclear weapons.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.