State Dept. says Senate sanctions bill 'defies logic'

Spokeswoman says senators "ignoring" the assessments of the US negotiating team as well as the US intelligence community.

December 19, 2013 23:00
1 minute read.
Iran nuclear talks  in Geneva November 24, 2013.

Zarif and Kerry at Iran nuclear talks in Geneva 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Carolyn Kaster/Pool)

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration is pushing back against a bipartisan group of senators that introduced a new sanctions bill against Iran on Thursday.

The bill would trigger new sanctions against Iran should six months pass without a comprehensive agreement with world powers ending its nuclear program.

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To the chagrin of those in the White House, the new legislation was introduced before the interim deal forged in Geneva last month had been implemented. The office of Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez announced the bill's introduction on the same day that technical talks restarted in Geneva over how to implement the interim deal.

State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said that the action, taken by a bipartisan group of 26 senators, "defies logic."

"We strongly oppose the action taken by these members of Congress," Harf said, charging that the senators in support of the bill were "ignoring" the assessments of the US negotiating team on the ground with Iranians as well as the US intelligence community.

The Geneva deal agreed upon by Iran and the P5+1 powers— the US, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany— effectively halts Iran's nuclear program in exchange for modest sanctions relief.

"I think the Iranians read our press and knew this might be happening," Harf said. "I don't think this was a secret to anyone."

The action amounts to an "unnecessary risk threatening negotiations," she added. "Congress can pass new sanctions in 24 hours if they wanted to."

White House press secretary Jay Carney said the Obama administration would support new sanctions should Iran fail to comply with the tenets of the Geneva deal, or should six months pass without a comprehensive agreement.

"We don't think it will be enacted, we don't think it should be enacted," Carney said on Thursday, after the bill was introduced.

"It is very important to refrain from taking an action that would potentially disrupt the opportunity here for a diplomatic solution," Carney said. "We don't want to see actions that would proactively undermine American diplomacy."

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