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Graham: Senate will vote on Iran sanctions legislation in January

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Saturday that the Senate will take up an Iran sanctions bill in January, setting up a tough vote for Democrats.

During an appearance alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, Graham said there will be a vote on legislation drafted by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) in January. The measure would impose additional sanctions on Iran if it violates the interim nuclear agreement or walks away from talks. 

{mosads}”I’m here to tell you, Mr. Prime Minister, that the Congress will follow your lead,” Graham said. “In January of next year, there will be a vote on the Kirk-Menendez bill, bipartisan sanction legislation that says, if Iran walks away from the table, sanctions will be re-imposed; if Iran cheats regarding any deal that we enter to the Iranians, sanctions will be re-imposed.”

The issue is a thorny one for Democrats. The bill gained 16 Democratic co-sponsors in the Congress that just ended. The Obama administration, though, is opposed to new sanctions as negotiations with Iran continue. Those negotiations were be extended for the second time last month.

“We continue to believe that adding on sanctions while negotiations are ongoing would be counterproductive,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said last month after the talks were extended.  

The Obama administration is trying to reach a deal that would curtail Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for easing the sanctions that are already in place. 

Graham, a leading foreign policy hawk, offered strong words in support of Israel during his appearance. Netanyahu has been a tough critic of the Obama administration’s Iran policy.

“I would love nothing better than a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear ambitions,” Graham said. “I support the Administration’s effort to try to bring this to a peaceful conclusion. But you [Netanyahu], above all others, have said that sanctions are what got Iran to the table, and it will be the only thing that brings them to a deal that we can all live with.”

He also expressed hope that his bill with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) to require congressional approval of a deal with Iran would have bipartisan support.

With Republicans taking over both chambers of Congress next month, Iran is just one area that could bring a clash with the White House. 

“You will see a very vigorous Congress, when it comes to Iran,” Graham said. “You will see a Congress making sure sanctions are real and will be re-imposed at the drop of a hat. You will see Congress wanting to have a say about any final deal.”

Negotiations over Israeli-Palestinian peace are another fraught area that has seen a push from the administration, in particular Secretary of State John Kerry. 

Graham raised the prospect of cutting off U.S. funding for the United Nations if the world body passes a resolution laying out conditions for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.

“Any effort by the French, the Jordanians or anyone to avoid direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians over the peace process, anyone who tries to take this to the UN Security Council, there will be a violent backlash by the Congress that could include suspending funding to the United Nations,” Graham said.

The comments come as the Palestinians push for a U.N. Security Council resolution setting a one-year deadline for talks and calling for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the West Bank by 2017. 

Tags Benjamin Netanyahu Iran Iran nuclear talks Israel Lindsey Graham

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