Israel is lobbying US Congress for new anti-Iran sanctions as the administration of President Barack Obama is trying to convince lawmakers that any new sanctions against Iran would be viewed as “bad faith.”
Israel’s Economy and Trade Minister, Naftali Bennett, is currently in Washington, actively lobbying US lawmakers to impose more sanctions on Iran.
“It’s like a boxing match where the other guy’s on the floor and the referee’s counting six, seven, eight, nine and at this very last moment we go and pick him up and let off the pressure. Now’s not the time to let up,” Bennett said on Thursday.
His comments were made one day after US Secretary of State John Kerry held a classified meeting with the Senate Banking Committee in an effort to convince US lawmakers that any new sanctions against Iran would be viewed as “bad faith” and can “destroy the ability to” reach an agreement over Tehran’s nuclear energy program.
“Our hope is now that no new sanctions would be put in place for the simple reason that if they are, it could be viewed as bad faith by the people we’re negotiating with, [and] it could destroy the ability to be able to get agreement,” Kerry said before he entered the closed-door briefing on Wednesday.
However, some Republican members of the committee stormed out of the classified meeting, angry with the White House’s message, reported Foreign Policy’s The Cable.
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) even described the briefing as “anti-Israeli,” saying “I was supposed to disbelieve everything the Israelis had just told me.”
The Republican Minority Leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, also called for “ratcheting up the sanctions against Iran.”
“What the administration was promoting is something the Israelis think is a bad deal for them. It’s pretty clear the Sunni Arab allies of ours also think it’s a bad deal. Looking at it strictly from an American point of view, I think it’s a bad deal as well,” McConnell said.
Nevertheless, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) described Wednesday’s briefing with Kerry as “very helpful” and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) said Kerry’s arguments were very convincing.
On Thursday, Israel’s Economy and Trade Minister also said that a possible nuclear deal between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany “could be catastrophic.”
The remarks echoed those of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who said last Friday that a possible deal between the two sides would be “a very, very bad deal.” The White House was quick to respond, saying it was “premature” to criticize a deal being discussed over Iran’s nuclear energy program.
Meanwhile, the White House has severely criticized Congress for trying to impose new sanctions on Iran, saying new anti-Iran sanctions would be a “march to war.”
“The American people do not want a march to war,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday.
“Putting new sanctions in place would be a mistake while we’re still determining a diplomatic route forward,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a separate briefing at the State Department.
The Senate Banking Committee is currently looking at a new anti-Iran sanctions bill passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives in July. The House bill seeks to cut Iran’s oil exports by one million barrels a day for the next year and includes threats of military force against Iran.
After the classified briefing with Kerry on Wednesday, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Sen. Tim Johnson (D-South Dakota), said he has yet to decide on when to go ahead with the consideration of the new anti-Iran sanctions legislation.