Middle East/North Africa

Poll: Public wants more sanctions on Iran

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Large majorities of voters from both parties want to increase the pressure on Iran, according to a new poll, complicating President Obama’s effort to get Congress to back off.

Almost 8 in 10 Americans — 77 percent — believe further economic sanctions and financial pressure are the best way to get Iran to abandon its alleged nuclear weapons program, according to a poll of 900 likely voters released Wednesday. The poll found that most voters, 77 percent of Democrats and 96 percent of Republicans, would rather vote for a senator who approves new sanctions.

“Finally, we have found an issue of substance that both Democrats and Republicans agree on,” said Republican pollster Frank Luntz, who conducted the poll for The Israel Project, a pro-Israel group. “The fear of Iranian nuclear weapons unites just about everyone.”

The poll comes as the Obama administration is stepping up its efforts to stop the Senate from passing new sanctions while negotiations with Iran continue for the next six months toward a final nuclear deal. Secretary of State John Kerry sought and failed to convince skeptical House members during a public hearing Tuesday, and the Treasury Department’s top sanctions expert penned an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday vowing to keep the pressure on throughout negotiations.

A Democratic staffer who was on a call where the polling results were released said its message was heard loud and clear on Capitol Hill.

“It’s clearly an uphill battle” for the administration, the staffer told The Hill. “You saw that yesterday [with Kerry] and you see that with this poll.”

In other bad news for the administration, the poll found that 86 percent of respondents believe a final deal should prohibit Iran from any sort of enrichment or related nuclear fuel capability. Kerry testified Tuesday that a final agreement will likely allow Iran some “mutually agreed parameters” for enrichment. 

Despite the public and congressional backlash, the administration has gotten its way — for now. Leaders of the Armed Services panels on Monday called for passage of a defense bill that doesn’t include an Iran sanctions amendment and the head of the Senate panel working on a stand-alone bill told The Hill on Tuesday he’d hold off at least until 2014.

“I’m inclined to support John Kerry” and hold off for now, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) said. “We’ll see. Not this year.”

Please send tips and comments to Julian Pecquet: jpecquet@thehill.com

Follow us on Twitter: @TheHillGlobal and @JPecquetTheHill

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