Ex-envoys to Israel: No new Iran sanctions

Six former ambassadors to Israel joined other top U.S. diplomats on Tuesday in urging Congress to hold back new sanctions to Iran.

They said the interim agreement freezing Iran's nuclear program is a good deal and must be given a chance to work.

Passing new sanctions now, they wrote in a letter to members of crucial committees in the House and Senate, would violate the terms of an agreement that was agreed to not only by the United States, but also by its five negotiating partners in the so-called P5+1 — Russia, China, France, Great Britain and Germany.

“It is important that the obligations undertaken by the [United States and its fellow negotiators] also be implemented faithfully,” they wrote.

“That means no new sanctions during this period, and the careful relief of sanctions promised, much of which can and should be re-imposed and even augmented by the President or Congress immediately if Iran breaches its commitments. Meanwhile the most forceful sanctions related to oil exports and financial transactions remain fully in effect.”

The letter comes as lawmakers are coming under increasing pressure from the White House to postpone action in the wake of last month's preliminary deal on Iran's nuclear program.

The Obama administration says passing new sanctions could derail the agreement, but senators from both parties have criticized the interim deal and said they want to vote on new sanctions by the end of the year.

But the diplomats said the interim agreement "opens the possibility of ultimately stopping Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability.”

“More than any other option, a diplomatic breakthrough on this issue will help ensure Israel’s security and remove the threat that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to the region generally and Israel specifically.”

The pro-Israel group AIPAC, meanwhile, has made passage of new sanctions a top priority. Proponents of new sanctions say they would only be triggered if Iran reneges on its obligations or if a final deal fails to materialize, and argue that the threat is vital for diplomacy to succeed.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who is leading the Democratic push for new sanctions, told CBS' “Face the Nation” over the weekend that his proposal would be “invoked six months after the date of enactment, that give the president certain waivers, creates the flexibility for diplomacy, and also sends the message to Iran that there is a consequence if you do not strike a successful deal.”

The House passed similar sanctions legislation on Iran's energy sector by a 400-20 vote back in July.

The letter was signed by six former ambassadors who served under every president from Jimmy Carter to George W. Bush, as well as by several former under secretaries of State.

They are: Former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Michael Armacost; former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns; former Ambassador to Israel Edward Djerejian; former Ambassador to Israel William Harrop; former Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer; former Ambassador to Israel Samuel Lewis; former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and former Ambassador to Israel Thomas R. Pickering; former Ambassador to Israel Edward S. Walker Jr.; and former Under Secretary of State for International Security Affairs and Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Frank G. Wisner.

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