White House pushes back on further Iran sanctions

The White House remains at odds with lawmakers who want the U.S. to impose additional sanctions on Iran, saying they could undermine a six-month deal that temporarily halts Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for some sanctions relief while the P5+1 seeks a broader agreement.

“Passing any new sanctions right now will undermine our efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution to this issue by giving the Iranians an excuse to push the terms of the agreement on their side,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said during Tuesday’s press briefing. “Further, new sanctions are unnecessary right now, because our core sanctions architecture remains in place and the Iranians continue to be under extraordinary pressure.”

Lawmakers, including Democrats, have cast doubt on whether Iran can be trusted. Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday that pursuing sanctions that did not take effect immediately would create “flexibility for diplomacy” and send the message to Iran “that there is a consequence” for failing to reach a longer-term deal to end their nuclear weapons ambitions.

But Carney pushed back against the idea of a deferred trigger. “The Iranians and likely our international partners will see us as having negotiated in bad faith,” he said. “It would make more sense to hold our powder -- or keep our powder dry, rather, until we see whether Iran violates the understanding we have reached, and act accordingly at that time.”

President Obama met with lawmakers while negotiations were ongoing to ask that they hold off on further sanctions, and he has urged them since then to show restraint.

“We cannot rule out peaceful solutions to the world’s problems. We cannot commit ourselves to an endless cycle of conflict. And tough talk and bluster may the easy thing to do politically but it’s not the right thing for our security,” the president said during a speech in San Francisco last week.

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    Rebecca Kaplan covers the 2012 presidential campaign for CBS News and National Journal.