In Blow to Diplomacy, Nearly Half of Senate Backing Iran Sanctions

'We believe this bill will destroy negotiations with Iran and make war with Iran possible'

Nearly half of the U.S. Senate has lined up behind a bipartisan Iran sanctions bill since it was introduced just before the holiday recess--a significant gain in support for legislation that many warn could sabotage the diplomatic processes underway and risk a catastrophic war.

"We believe this bill will destroy negotiations with Iran and make war with Iran possible," declared Vietnam military veteran Barry Romo. "We need to respect the international community and the American public, who overwhelmingly want a peaceful settlement with Iran."

"Sanctions which result in the suffering of ordinary Iranians are a morally bankrupt response to human rights violations," said organizers with Havaar--a group of Iranians, Iranian-Americans, and allies who oppose sanctions, war, and state repression--in a statement emailed to Common Dreams. "The timing of such actions speak more directly to the interventionist policies of some members of the Senate and their primary objective of obstructing diplomatic engagement with Iran."

According to a public roster, 48 senators--15 of them Democrats--have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill. This is a significant jump from the bill's initial 26 co-sponsors upon introduction December 19. The bill requires 51 votes to pass the Senate.

"If this bill goes to a vote and passes, it promises to destroy all the diplomatic progress President Obama has made with Iran so far," reads a statement from Just Foreign Policy. "Leaders in Iran's Majlis are already warning that they will respond in kind to the passage of this legislation--and that Iran may opt out of talks altogether."

The so-called Iran Nuclear Weapon Free Act of 2013 (S. 1881) was introduced by powerful Republicans and Democrats: Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). The Obama administration has publicly condemned the legislation and vowed to veto it if it passes, indicating cracks in the Democratic party as the hardline position gains steam.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is pouring lobbying muscle into the legislation, which pushes for further sanctions on Iran and imposes near-impossible conditions on a final deal.

Experts warn that this bill stands in direct violation of an interim agreement reached in late November in Geneva that the U.S. will "refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions" during the six-month period the agreement is in effect.

Havaar organizers urge, "While the diplomatic engagement with the U.S should not be framed as the final step for Iran's democratic movement, it can be a crucial step forward in reducing the social and economic hardship that has been intensified under the sanctions regime."

Groups are calling for people across the United States to contact their senators to urge them to say "no" to the bill. In Chicago, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War and other military veterans and allies picketed outside Kirk's office to declare, "Don't ruin the new year with a new war on Iran."

Greg Hom writes for War Times/Tiempos Guerras, "The road to a nuclear-free Middle East, an end to the sectarian conflicts that are now gripping the region, and the flourishing of regional movements for democracy and equality will not come from increased sanctions and threats of war."

"Instead of continuing or increasing sanctions, we call on the U.S. to promote a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East that would include both Iran and Israel -- and to take major steps toward disarmament and divest itself of nuclear weapons," declared Havaar organizers.


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