White House pressured by key senators over Iran nuclear talks

Posted Feb 9, 2014 by Michael Krebs
As negotiations with Iran over the Islamic republic's nuclear program entered its second day on Sunday, President Barack Obama remained under fire by key senators from both parties for ignoring prior legislation on Iranian sanctions.
The future of Iran's Arak heavy water IR-40 reactor is one of the key points in a landmark nucl...
The future of Iran's Arak heavy water IR-40 reactor is one of the key points in a landmark nuclear deal Tehran recently signed with world powers in Geneva
Hamid Foroutan, ISNA/AFP/File
The White House came under considerable pressure this week when two key senators — one from each political party — questioned the president's negotiation positions on Iran's nuclear program.
As Iran's Press TV reported, the International Atomic Energy Agency has begun its second day of negotiations with Iran on Sunday, and there is notable concern that the terms hammered out in the talks are met.
However, the American position came under scrutiny from lawmakers in the senate who expressed concern that President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are operating outside of the requirements set forth in the legislation that had been drawn up specifically to determine the conditions under which sanctions against Iran would be lifted.
In a letter written to President Obama, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) detailed his concerns over the Iranian negotiations.
"In addition to the many sanctions laws in statute, both CISADA and ITRA outline specific termination criteria that bind any President seeking to undo the sanctions therein," Paul wrote. "Specifically, CISADA, as modified by ITRA, only allows for termination of sanctions once Iran has verifiably dismantled its military-nuclear, biological, chemical, ballistic missile and ballistic missile launch technology programs - in addition to Iran no longer acting as a state sponsor of terrorism. Other statutes, like the Central Bank of Iran sanctions enacted as part of the Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, have no termination criteria and can only be lifted by congressional repeal. While the statutes do contain national security waivers that allow for a temporary suspension of these sanctions, the presence of these exacting termination criteria make clear that the intent of Congress was not simply to allow the President to waive all the sanctions in perpetuity at his behest."
Senator Paul's concerns were echoed by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ). Senator Menendez is the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and has long expressed his concerns over Iranian nuclear intentions.
"Iran is insisting on keeping core elements of its programs — enrichment, the Arak heavy-water reactor, the underground Fordow facility, and the Parchin military complex," Menendez said, according to the Washington Post. "And, while they may be subject to safeguards — so they can satisfy the international community in the short-run — if they are allowed to retain their core infrastructure, they could quickly revive their program sometime in the future. At the same time, Iran is seeking to reverse the harsh international sanctions regimes against them. Bottom line: They dismantle nothing. We gut the sanctions."
Progress on the negotiations remains unclear, but a spokesperson told the Kuwait News Agency that the talks have been "constructive."