Just as a diplomatic solution to the Iran crisis appears potentially within reach, and at a time when the Obama Administration is imploring Congress to give it the space it needs to test this possibility, pressure is mounting for Congress to push ahead with new sanctions against Iran. Some are arguing that putting a gun to Iran’s head during negotiations while tying the hands of Obama Administration negotiators is a way of promoting successful negotiations. In truth, such an approach is probably the fastest way to undermine the U.S. negotiating efforts and, to the extent that there are Iranian officials today who may be serious about negotiating a deal, it is probably the most effective way to discredit them and strengthen Iranian hardliners.
Going ahead with new sanctions at this time is reckless and irresponsible. Passing legislation that further limits U.S. negotiating options and flexibility is rash and shortsighted. Now is the time for Congress to give diplomacy a chance to work and to give the Obama Administration maximum room to maneuver.
Pursuing additional sanctions today sends a message that Congress doesn’t want a negotiated solution to Iran’s nuclear program. Indeed, legislating new sanctions will be understood by many, in Iran and the international community, as a declaration that Congress actively wants to scuttle the ongoing diplomatic effort. Such an approach will also bolster arguments that congressional sanctions and saber-rattling have been driven all along, not by the goal of changing Iran’s policy vis-à-vis its nuclear program, but rather by the goal of changing the Iranian regime.
Tell your Senators: Now is the time to support diplomacy. Now is not the time to undermine diplomacy with new sanctions and negotiating red lines.