In his State of the Union address and other recent remarks, President Barack Obama defended diplomatic engagement with Iran and called for the U.S. Congress to stand united with the EU and P5+1 in seeking a diplomatic solution to resolve concerns over Iran’s nuclear program.
“Between now and this spring, we have a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed Iran; secures America and our allies – including Israel -- avoiding yet another Middle East conflict.”
President Obama said there is no certainty that negotiations will succeed, but he stressed that one way “to all but guarantee that diplomacy fails” is for the U.S. Congress to impose new sanctions on Iran while the nuclear talks between Iran, the P5 +1 countries, and the European Union are ongoing.
Under the Joint Plan of Action agreed to in 2013, no new sanctions were to be initiated against Iran, while negotiations toward a comprehensive agreement were proceeding. President Obama said for the United States Congress to unilaterally pass sanctions legislation – even if that legislation only puts in place a trigger for new sanctions – would risk jeopardizing the opportunity for reaching a comprehensive and verifiable diplomatic deal.
The possible consequences could be enormously destructive, said President Obama:
“Alienating America from its allies, and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again. It doesn’t make sense. That is why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo the progress.”
In testimony before Congress, State Department Deputy Secretary Anthony Blinken emphasized there is still a “credible chance” of reaching a verifiable nuclear deal with Iran. “If Iran’s leaders choose not to move forward, we will work with Congress to increase pressure,” he said.
“But while we remain engaged in these negotiations, it is important to demonstrate to our partners as well as to Iran that Washington is united in support of a comprehensive solution that would ensure that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon, and that its nuclear program is exclusively peaceful. I know,” he added, “this is a goal we all share.”