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As Iran and U.S. negotiate, Senator Menendez blasts unilateral sanctions relief

November 6th, 2013
03:54 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

As long as Iran continues to enrich uranium the United States should not suspend its Iran sanctions, Democratic Senator Robert Menendez told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday.

Landmark direct negotiations between the two countries are set to continue on Thursday in Geneva.

“What I do not understand is a negotiating posture in which we suspend our actions, we give them sanctions relief on existing sanctions, yet they continue to be able to enrich, to be able to have more sophisticated centrifuges,” Menendez said.

Details of negotiation have been kept under tight wraps.

But in broad strokes, Iran – under the leadership of newly elected President Hassan Rouhani – is seeking massive sanctions relief; the United States and its negotiating partners want to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon.

“The only reason we’re in these negotiations is because of the sanctions that I and others have offered,” Menendez said, adding that he was trying to avoid military conflict.

“Why is it impossible to simply accept, get Iran to accept, that it suspend?” he asked. “It’s not rolling back its 20 percent, or 3.5 percent enrichment. It’s not reducing its centrifuges. Why can you not simply suspend in order to have the negotiation that you want? That would be a good-faith effort.”

Paul Pillar, a former CIA officer with nearly 30 years’ experience in the U.S. intelligence community, told Amanpour on Wednesday that action from either side would come about as part of a package deal.

“We would not expect the Iranians to expect from us to simply start taking sanctions off unilaterally,” Pillar said, “and we should not expect from them to simply start stopping aspects of their nuclear program unilaterally.”

Menendez indicated he hadn’t seen anything concrete being discussed.

“I haven’t heard anything substantive on the table,” he said. “All I’ve heard is that the tone and tenor, and the directness, has been different.”

There has been some discussion in foreign policy circles about the idea the President Obama may be able to offer some sanctions relief himself, without new legislation from Congress – a so-called “national security” waiver.

“There are provisions in the laws that we already passed on sanctions to have waivers that the president can certify to Congress,” Menendez said.

“And I would be willing to say that if we can get Iran to suspend its present activities as we move forward with what I hope will be fruitful negotiations, that any new round of sanctions would say that they could be ceased immediately upon Iran meeting its verifiable actions under the Security Council resolutions.”

Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Iran • Latest Episode
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Arvin

    This Senator talks like a kid. The real problem he is US policy. US supporting Israel which is symbol of harshness and uncivilized government in the region and always throttling the neighbor countries.
    The sanctions only hurting the normal people, not the politicians, and this Senator knows it very well, but still talking about adding more sanctions. US have done so many mistakes in Iran´s history, now its the time to follow the logic and see the reality. The only Key here is the negotiation and talk, not the sanction or anything else.

    November 6, 2013 at 5:28 pm | Reply
  2. Marc T

    It's because of people like Menendez, Bush or Cheney that the US is slowly turning into one of the most hated countries in recent history. The only thing that makes these asshats happy are wars, the more the better. Disgusting.

    November 7, 2013 at 8:41 am | Reply
  3. changeirannow

    The U.S. should take a “distrust an verify” approach with the Iranians, continuing to put pressure on the Iranian regime through sanctions until Iran’s enrichment and reprocessing facilities are completely and verifiably dismantled. The U.S. has spent more than a decade trying to slow down Iran’s nuclear program—all while Tehran has continued its improvement and expansion. Because the final solution, if there is one, will also demonstrate to other states what the U.S. considers acceptable, safe, and responsible behavior regarding nuclear technology, the U.S must not reward Iran for years of volatile and illicit activity. Obama should resist the temptation to settle for a short-term deal that merely buys Iran more time to either expand its program through other means or merely reopen it after a short pause. A long-term, permanent solution is required.

    November 7, 2013 at 9:45 pm | Reply
    • scrut

      Iran has a legal right to have a non-military nuclear program and by international law, it is illegal for nations such as the US to deny Iran that right or even to threaten Iran etc.
      According to the UN, there is no sign whatsoever that Iran has done anything illegal in terms of its nuclear program. There is, however, lots of proof that the US has acted illegally here.
      Like usual, the US is not part of the "good guys" in this story.

      November 11, 2013 at 7:14 am | Reply
  4. Matt

    Sanction are used to change behavior via an uprising causing regime change to occur in which the regime either falls or a civil war occurs like in Syria. Now Iran came close in 2009/10 to regime change but since then sanctions have been increased yet the regime holds. So if the US wants to do a deal there is little Israel or anyone else can do. I would be thankful that the sanctions regime will not be deconstructed and waivers will be issued instead of rolling back the sanctions framework. A deal is where things are going it is a deal that no one gets what they want the only deal is a bad deal for all parties, no winners. Except me as the sanctions framework stays in place. Which was a realistic objective in shaping policy instead of something which is fantasy and head in clouds stuff. You can only do that if you are allowed at the table and not sidelined.

    November 9, 2013 at 7:42 am | Reply
  5. Roz g

    Anti Israel sentiment which is the new and improved expression of anti-semitism of the moment blinds people to reality. The final solution included 80 million lives and the destruction of Europe. Yes, Israel will be destroyed which would gratify those seeking a real and lasting final solution for the Jews, but that would not be the end of it which is why the Sunni countries and France are terrified of a nuclear Iran. The Shia theology mandates armegeddon so that the hidden imam will come power to vanquish the infidels which include the Sunni and all the heretics. The commentators may hate Jews and the idea of a Jewish state that defends itself may drive them nuts. They like their Jews to be a bunch of bones picked up for the crematoria,, but this bomb is for everyone and Menendez is right this deal is for dummies.

    November 12, 2013 at 11:52 am | Reply
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