Senate sanctions dead for now

By all indications it looks like the Senate will be holding off on new Iran sanctions, at least for the time being. Whether this means the rest of 2013 or the first six months of 2014 has yet to be seen. One report seems to imply that Senate Democrats have decided to side with the President on the issue, and statements from many top Democrats in recent days would suggest that’s the case.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren expressed her support for the administration’s first stage agreement during a Banking Committee hearing on Thursday, calling the interim deal a “promising first step toward achieving our goals in the region.” While noting that the deal wasn’t perfect, she asserted that it was also “certainly no giveaway to Iran.” Previously, she had been silent on the deal.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Jay Rockefeller said “I know some senators doubt these risks. But I ask my colleagues this: If there is any chance at all that new sanctions right now might disrupt that agreement, or jeopardize a future agreement -- why on earth would we risk it?” Banking Committee Chair Sen. Tim Johnson announced Tuesday that he would hold off on moving new sanctions through the committee, once considered the most likely path next to the Defense Authorization, which is also no longer a possibility.

In a Banking Committee hearing Thursday, Johnson defended his position. "I agree that the administration's request for a diplomatic pause is reasonable," Johnson said. "A new round of U.S. sanctions now could rupture the unity of the international coalition against Iran's nuclear program." Johnson has announced that he does have a bill and will bring it to the floor if Iran reneges on the deal, but not before then.

This is a big win for the Obama administration, which has been lobbying for a delay in sanctions since the deal was signed in late November, and an even bigger win for national security.