The new United States Congress, which convened Tuesday with Republicans in control of the House and Senate, plans to challenge President Barack Obama on several issues, including the sanctions on Iran, reports The Associated Press (AP).
Republicans who have accused Obama of being feckless in dealing with Syria, the Islamic State (ISIS) and Iran will push for a more confrontational strategy. They want to consider legislation penalizing Iran and authorizing force against ISIS, Monday’s report noted.
Last week, diplomats said Iran and the U.S. have tentatively agreed on a formula that Washington hopes will reduce Tehran’s ability to make nuclear arms by committing it to ship to Russia much of the material needed for such weapons, a report which was later denied by Iran.
In another sign of progress, the two diplomats told AP that negotiators at the December round of nuclear talks drew up for the first time a catalog outlining areas of potential accord and differing approaches to remaining disputes.
The diplomats said differences still dominate ahead of the next round of Iran-six power talks on January 15 in Geneva. But they suggested that even agreement to create a to-do list would have been difficult previously because of wide gaps between the sides.
While Washington and its partners are hoping to clinch a deal with Iran by July that would set long-term limits on Iran’s enrichment of uranium and other activity that could produce material for use in nuclear weapons, Republicans say the Senate will vote within weeks on a bill to impose more sanctions on Tehran.
Congressional lawmakers have warned Obama in the past they will work to increase sanctions on Iran if the administration makes what they consider a bad deal over Tehran’s nuclear program.
Last year, a bill was introduced by Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill) to impose new sanctions on Iran if international negotiations on curbing its nuclear ambitions falter.
The bill was gaining momentum in Congress, but Obama lobbied hard against it and has more than once threatened to veto the bill if it passes.
On a visit to Israel last month, Sen. Lindsey Graham said the bipartisan sanction legislation says: “If Iran walks away from the table, sanctions will be re-imposed. If Iran cheats regarding any deal that we enter to the Iranians, sanctions will be re-imposed.”
Graham also is sponsoring legislation that would require any deal with Iran to be approved by Congress before sanctions could be lifted, noted AP.
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