President Obama warned Congress Friday that new economic sanctions against Iran could lead directly to war, and British Prime Minister David Cameron said he’s personally appealing to top lawmakers to hold off and allow diplomatic negotiations with Iran to play out.
At a news conference in the White House, both leaders pleaded with congressional leaders to wait just a few more months before pursuing new sanctions against Iran. Mr. Cameron said such action would splinter the international community, which right now is unified against Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon.
But Mr. Obama was even more direct, warning the American people that their representatives on Capitol Hill could plunge the U.S. into another war in the Middle East by pushing another round of sanctions.
“I’ve consistently said we leave all options on the table. But Congress should be aware that if this diplomatic solution fails, than the risks and likelihood this ends up at some point a military confrontation is heightened. And Congress will have to own that as well,” the president said. “And we may not be able to rebuild the kind of coalition we need in that context if the world believes we were not serious about negotiations.”
The U.S., Britain and its allies in the so-called P5 plus 1 — Russia, China, France and Germany — in 2013 secured a deal that halted some parts of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of some economic sanctions against the country. The two sides still have not reached a final agreement.
The deadline for a final deal has been extended twice, with the next deadline looming in June.
But some lawmakers believe now is the time to double down on economic sanctions against Iran, even as diplomatic talks continue. There is support in both parties for more sanctions.
While in Washington this week, Mr. Cameron said that he’s personally appealed to members of the Senate to take additional sanctions off the table right now.
“I have contacted a couple of senators this morning and I may speak to one or two more this afternoon — not in any way as the British prime minister to tell the American Senate what it should or shouldn’t do. That wouldn’t be right,” he said. “But simply to make the point that as a country that stands alongside America in these vital negotiations that it is the opinion of the United Kingdom that further sanctions of the further threat of sanctions at this point won’t actually help bring the talks to a successful conclusion and they could fracture the international unity there has been.”