U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said Friday that Iran must be tested and that a working deal intended to curb its nuclear military capabilities is worth pursuing.
“I mean, there is so much mistrust, of course, that we bring to these negotiations after generations of suspicion, and that cuts both ways,” Ms. Power said on “CBS This Morning.” “With the temporary, modest, reversible, limited relief that we are promising here, in return we freeze the program, they dilute some of the highly enriched uranium, and we get a much more inspection verification regime. To think that we could go from zero to 60 overnight and come to Congress with a comprehensive deal that any of us would trust, having not probed it in this way, I think is not realistic.”
Secretary of State John F. Kerry, who briefed lawmakers privately on the status of international talks with Iran Wednesday, said earlier this week that sanctions against Iran currently in place are working and asked Congress to refrain from adding more, saying that a hawkish posture from Capitol Hill might be seen by Tehran as an unwillingness to negotiate.
“We believe that we have a responsibility to pursue diplomacy and see if [it] can work,” State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said Friday.
In addition to members of Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been sharply critical of the proposal left on the table in recent talks, but Ms. Power said the fact that the Islamic Republic has not taken the deal is a good sign.
“Israel has been a great partner with us throughout this process, and obviously our goals are identical, which is to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon,” she said. “We are going to continue to consult closely with them, and when the talks resume we’re hopeful we can get, again, an interim arrangement that does a lot more good and could give us more confidence at the end of six months.”
Ms. Power did say that Iran’s taking advantage of the time element is a “very legitimate concern.”
“We were concerned that if we didn’t do an interim deal, they would be taking advantage of the length of the negotiation, so again, the important feature of this is a much more aggressive verification and inspection,” she said.
Ms. Power also cited a newly released International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report that says Iran is slowing its nuclear development under new President Hassan Rouhani.
But later Friday, four Republican senators sent a letter to President Obama expressing concern with the plan being negotiated.
“Over the last few weeks, we were assured that the administration was pursuing an interim step agreement with Iran that would 1) freeze and set back Iran’s nuclear program, and 2) not provide any significant sanctions relief to Iran,” wrote Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Mark Kirk of Illinois, John Cornyn of Texas, and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire wrote. “Those assurances appear inconsistent with reports of what the administration actually offered Iran in Geneva last week.”
The senators claim that in exchange for up to $20 billion of economic relief, Iran “would not be required to dismantle a single centrifuge, close a single facility or ship outside its borders a single kilogram of enriched uranium. Furthermore, the accord would allow Iran to continue working on a plutonium reactor, enriching uranium, manufacturing centrifuges, testing ballistic missiles, sponsoring terrorism and abusing the rights of its people.”
They go on to write that the U.S. should intensify sanctions until Iran suspends its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that would be the wrong approach and that she is “baffled by the insistence of some senators to undermine” the ongoing negotiations.
“The purpose of sanctions was to bring Iran to the negotiating table, and they have succeeded in doing so,” the California Democrat said in a statement. “Tacking new sanctions onto the defense authorization bill or any other legislation would not lead to a better deal. It would lead to no deal at all.”