Iran hard-liners look to tie sanctions to defense bill

A pair of senators is looking to tie an annual defense policy bill to the administration's nuclear negotiations with Iran ahead of an end-of-the-month deadline. 

Sens. Mark KirkMark KirkThe Mideast-focused Senate letter we need to see The way forward on the Iran nuclear deal under President Trump ObamaCare repeal bill would defund Planned Parenthood MORE (R-Ill.) and Bob MenendezRobert MenendezThe Mideast-focused Senate letter we need to see Taiwan deserves to participate in United Nations The way forward on the Iran nuclear deal under President Trump MORE (D-N.J.) are hoping to include a 10-year extension of Iranian sanctions legislation as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

“No agreement is better than a bad agreement, and that is what my concern is ... that we are headed for a bad deal,” Menendez said Thursday, adding that the United States “can’t trust Iran to abide by its agreements.” 

The two senators, who have been at the forefront of a congressional push to increase sanctions against the Iranian government, want to extend the Iranian Sanctions Act of 1996 beyond its current expiration date at the end of 2016 through 2026. 

Another amendment to the annual defense bill from Kirk, who faces a potentially tough reelection next year, would require Treasury Secretary Jack LewJack LewWhite House divide may derail needed China trade reform 3 unconventional ways Trump can tackle the national debt One year later, the Iran nuclear deal is a success by any measure MORE to report on how the Iranian government uses money received through sanctions relief. That would include any funding that goes toward terrorist organizations, the creation nuclear weapons or into the personal bank accounts of Iranian officials. 

Negotiators are working toward a June 30 deadline to reach a final agreement that would curb Iran's ability to build nuclear weapons. Officials involved in the talks have suggested an agreement isn’t likely by the end of the month. 

Sen. Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsDOJ asks judge to reassess after sanctuary city update: report Sessions postpones Senate testimony on DOJ funding Voting advocates notch win at Supreme Court MORE also wants to include a provision in the defense bill that would lay out what Congress should accept as part of any final deal. 

The Alabama Republican's proposal objects to any deal "that does not include robust inspections and proper verification of all Iran's nuclear programs and related military installations and access to nuclear supporting scientists should be accepted."

The provision could be problematic because Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has vowed to reject inspections to Iranian military sites. Khamenei, as the country's supreme leader, has the final say on any deal related to Iran's nuclear program. 

In the event that negotiators are able to reach a deal, Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) wants the administration to hand over a Middle East strategy. He wants the plan to include any efforts to counter Iranian-backed terrorism and how the administration would reassure allies in the region, as well as any efforts to tackle “the potential for a conventional or nuclear arms race.” 

The Senate voted last month to allow Congress to review and vote on a final deal on Iran’s nuclear program. 

The push by senators to involve the controversial Iran negotiations in a normally bipartisan defense bill is another hurdle to Republicans’ pledge to pass the NDAA, which was slowed this week by political fights. 

Sen. Bob CorkerBob CorkerClinton administration official knocks 'soap opera' of Trump White House Trump's steps on Iran show cooperation with Congress is possible Senate GOP short on ideas for stabilizing ObamaCare markets MORE (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, sidestepped questions this week from reporters about whether he wants to see Iran-related amendments attached the defense bill. 

“I’m not planning to offer any, but I don’t k now if I want to speak to other people doing the same,” he said. “Again, every senator has the privilege to offer any amendments on anything they wish at any time.