While John Kerry admitted a nuclear deal with Iran may yet fail, he urged Congress on Tuesday to avoid any new sanctions that would threaten the “delicate” diplomatic agreement.
The United States Secretary of State underwent intense grilling before the Foreign Affairs Committee, defending the deal struck between the Islamic Republic and the P5+1 Nations last month.
“We are asking you to give our negotiators and our experts the time and the space to do their jobs and that includes asking you while we negotiate that you hold off imposing new sanctions,” Kerry said, according to BBC.
Iran says its nuclear program is purely for domestic energy and research purposes, such as creating medical isotopes; critics charge Iran is enriching uranium to create a nuclear weapon.
In an interim agreement hammered out Nov. 24 in Geneva, Iran agreed to halt enrichment in exchange for an easing of sanctions worth about $7 billion.
Iran also agreed to stop construction of its heavy water reactor at Arak and allow daily inspections.
In return, Iran would be allowed expanded oil production and access about $4.2 billion worth of assets frozen in overseas accounts.
The two sides have six months to produce a long-term deal. The Foreign Affairs Committee called Kerry to ask him if the deal, in which the Secretary of State was a major player, makes the US a safer place.
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“The deal does not roll back Iran’s nuclear program, but instead allows Tehran to keep in place the key elements of its nuclear weapons-making capability,” said the committee chairman, Rep. Ed Royce of California.
Kerry did admit that if the deal fails, he will be back in front of Congress asking for more sanctions. Alongside Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Kerry is to hold a briefing for the full Senate on Wednesday.
“Has Iran changed its nuclear calculus? I honestly don’t think we can say for sure yet,” Kerry said, according to Agence France-Presse. “And we certainly don’t take words at face value.”
After the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly for sanctions this summer, the Senate has progressed more slowly since then on a new bill.
Iranian representatives said any new legislation would sabotage the agreement.
Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif told Time magazine that Iran doesn’t negotiate “under duress.”
“If Congress adopts sanctions, it shows lack of seriousness and lack of a desire to achieve a resolution on the part of the United States,” he told Time’s Robin Wright.
“I know the domestic complications and various issues inside the United States, but for me that is no justification.”
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