By Spencer Ackerman
November 8, 2013
As soon as the Obama administration reaches an anticipated deal with Iran over its nuclear program, it will face a new challenge that threatens to strangle the accord in its crib: the inevitable attempts on Capitol Hill to impose new economic sanctions on Tehran.
Expectations are high in Washington that John Kerry, the secretary of state, will announce a limited, short-term deal with Iran, following his unexpected arrival in Geneva on Friday to participate in negotiations.
Yet the White House was quick to say that it is resolved to “protecting the broader architecture of the sanctions program,” as deputy press secretary Josh Earnest put it on Friday.
Unless Kerry can persuade Tehran to freeze all its enrichment activity before an interim deal, nuclear experts say, bipartisan congressional opponents of Iran will rapidly push to expand the sanctions regime. Iran wants the sanctions removed, and may consider an expansion of them a sign of America’s bad faith in advance of the longer-term deal both sides say they want.
The Senate, filled with Iran hawks, has multiple opportunities to expand the sanctions regime as early as Monday. One is a package of new sanctions in the Senate banking committee that chairman Tim Johnson, a South Dakota Democrat, said Thursday he will pursue after “the Geneva meeting is over with.”
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