Jason Reed/AP

Obama Presses Congress to Delay New Iran Sanctions

The administration's push comes as the Senate prepares legislation that would ratchet up pressure on Tehran. By Global Security Newswire

High-level Obama officials are urging U.S. lawmakers to avoid imposing new sanctions on Iran for half a year, while diplomats attempt to secure a broader deal with the Middle Eastern nation on its disputed atomic activities, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

One congressional proposal would impose new penalties only if Tehran does not agree to specific nuclear terms after six months. However, the White House has warned that even delayed sanctions could undermine international confidence in the dialogue that led to this week's breakthrough interim accord. The agreement was signed on Sunday, following a round of intense negotiations between Iranian diplomats and counterparts from the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany.

Congress could return from recess on Dec. 9 to find new sanctions language readied by Senators Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), staffers told the Associated Press for a Tuesday report. That text would require Obama officials to reaffirm every 30 days that Tehran remains in compliance with the interim pact, which is intended to create room for negotiators to hammer out longer-term restrictions on Iranian activities that Washington and its allies worry is geared toward development of a nuclear-bomb capability.

A number of legislators are set to confer with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry next week, days before business formally resumes at the Capitol, insiders told the Journal.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) last week said he could back new Iran sanctions legislation as soon as his chamber reconvenes, but he offered a more equivocal take after speaking with President Obama on Sunday, according to the newspaper.

The Senate's foreign relations and banking panels "will hold hearings, if necessary, and if we need more work on this, we need to do stronger sanctions," Reid told National Public Radio's "Diane Rehm Show" on Monday. "I look forward to input from both the majority and minority when I get back there, and we'll move forward appropriately."