Obama Mounts 'Aggressive' Drive to Woo Congress on Iran Deal

Image: Obama Mounts 'Aggressive' Drive to Woo Congress on Iran Deal

Monday, 25 Nov 2013 10:41 PM

By Amy Woods

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The White House is casting the nuclear agreement reached Sunday with Iran as part of a solution to conflict in the Middle East, and will push Congress to hold off issuing new sanctions on the country.

The Wall Street Journal reported that President Barack Obama is launching an "aggressive campaign" against new sanctions and said such measures might throw off the deal reached in Geneva.

Obama wants Congress to sit back for six months to let the agreement work.

"Huge challenges remain," Obama said Monday during a speech in San Francisco. "But we cannot close the door on diplomacy, and we cannot rule out peaceful solutions to the world's problems. Tough talk and bluster may be the easy thing to do politically, but it's not the right thing for our security."

Administration officials said Obama will speak at length about Middle East diplomacy when the president gives his 2014 State of the Union address.

Democrats, including New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, and Republicans, including South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, are eager to push for more sanctions out of distrust of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

"The Obama administration has managed, somehow, to bring the Arabs and Israelis together, and they may have created bipartisanship at a time when I thought it was impossible," Graham said. "The deal does not accomplish the goal of beginning to dismantle the [Iranian nuclear] program."

While some congressional leaders are considering legislation that will impose sanctions six months from now, White House officials remain unsatisfied with that because it constitutes new economic punishment on the country that could threaten the treaty, NBC News reported.

"The international community is now invested in the six-month negotiations," a White House official said. "If we did anything that made it look like we're not taking that window seriously or are moving prematurely to pressure, we could jeopardize the international unity both in the negotiations and in the enforcement of the sanctions regime.

"This is very high-stakes diplomacy, and we want the leverage of additional sanctions hanging out there, but we need to take the guidance of our negotiators about what would help or hurt," the official said.

The campaign specifically targets Jewish lawmakers and those who are aligned with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who stridently opposes the deal.

"This is going to consume a lot of effort over the next six months," the official said.

There is no doubt Obama faces challenges from both parties in ensuing months. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat and an Obama ally, long has supported tougher sanctions against Iran, but backpedaled his push to legislate them after the deal was struck.

"When we come back, we will take a look at this to see if we need stronger sanctions," Reid said with Congress headed out for its Thanksgiving break. "But we all have to acknowledge that it's an important first step."

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