Questions swirl around Iran in SOTU

Critics and advocates of President Obama's Iran diplomacy are eagerly awaiting his State of the Union speech – but with opposite expectations.

The liberal, pro-Israel group J Street hopes the president will tell lawmakers once and for all to back off their threat to pass new sanctions that the White House says could scuttle any chance at a nuclear deal.

“We hope he addresses it directly,” said Dylan Williams, the group's chief lobbyist. “It will show that he feels this is a fight he can win and he's coming from a position of strength vis-a-vis those in Congress who are pushing for new sanctions.”

And the Arms Control Association's Daryl Kimball said he'd like to see Obama explain in detail why sanctions “may be well-intentioned but would sabotage progress and make a confrontation with Iran more, not less likely.”

United Against Nuclear Iran, which supports sanctions, thinks the president should instead engage lawmakers on what the terms of a final deal should be.

“The Obama administration has not been doing this so far,” said CEO Mark Wallace. “In fact they have been extending olive branches to Iran, while attacking Congress as reckless and war-hungry.”

On Syria, advocates say the president could help their push to allow 15,000 refugees into the country by highlighting the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

“If the president were to say anything about the United States opening its doors to Syrian refugees and continuing our proud tradition of refugee resettlement, that would be tremendous,” said Naomi Steinberg, director of Refugee Council USA.

J Street is also counting on the president to tout the “positive movement” made on Israeli-Palestinian peace over the past six months.

And foreign aid advocates are counting on a renewed focus on helping the rest of the world as the president prepares to unveil his budget.

“Last year the president challenged the world to 'eradicate … extreme global poverty,' and I hope he builds on this vision and shares with us his plans for an inspirational legacy of American global leadership,” said Liz Schrayer, executive director of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.

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