(JNS.org) U.S. President Barack Obama announced Tuesday that the United States and France agree that existing sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program must continue to be enforced. At the same time, a mounting bipartisan effort is working to block efforts in the Senate and House to place additional sanctions on Iran.
"President Hollande and I agree on the need to continue enforcing existing sanctions even as we believe that new sanctions during these negotiations would endanger the possibility of a diplomatic solution," Obama said in a joint news conference with French President Francois Hollande.
"And we remain absolutely united in our ultimate goal, which is preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," Obama said, Reuters reported. Hollande is on a state visit to the U.S.
Meanwhile, a letter initiated by U.S. Reps. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) and David Price (D-NC), which mirrors the White House stance by opposing new Iran sanctions, recently circulated on Capitol Hill. The letter, released Tuesday, was signed by more than 100 members of the House, including several Republicans.
Signatories to the letter also include Jewish members of Congress with known pro-Israel voting records. U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) was one of the leaders in the effort. U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) also signed the letter. Yarmuth had been a vocal opponent of additional Iran sanctions even before the P5+1 agreement with Iran went into effect late last year.
According to the office of Price, organizations like J Street, Ploughshares, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, Win Without War, and Americans for Peace Now are among those mobilizing their supporters in favor of the letter and against harsher Iran sanctions in general.
“A large number of House Democrats are unified against actions that could undermine diplomacy. Negotiations with Iran are complex and we may not reach a final agreement in exactly six months, but we’re the closest we’ve ever been to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon," U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), a Muslim legislator whose office is rumored to have helped circulate the letter to other offices, told JNS.org.
U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), an author of the Mendendez-Kirk bill (S. 1881), which calls for increased sanctions on Iran and is awaiting a vote in the Senate, in a recent speech on the Senate floor criticized the Obama administration’s statements against his sanctions bill. “The concerns I have raised [about Iran] here are legitimate,” Menendez said. “They are not—as the president’s press secretary has said—‘war-mongering.’ This is not saber rattling. It is not Congress wanting to ‘march to war,’ as another White House spokeswoman said—but exactly the opposite.”
Russia, meanwhile, criticized the White House on Tuesday for targeting businesses trying to evade the current sanctions on the Islamic Republic. "This is a straight path to the destruction of a healthy and positive basis for further progress on resolving the problem related to the Iranian nuclear program," said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.