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Other elements of the administration’s campaign for a moratorium on further sanctions included a plea to senators by administration officials, including Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, not to bring, for now, a bill to the floor of the Senate that would slap new sanctions on Iran’s financial system in addition to those already in place.
In an October 28 speech to the Ploughshares Fund, a nonproliferation group, Secretary of State John Kerry also warned against “fear tactics” deployed by those opposing negotiations with Iran. Kerry’s comments were seen by some in Israel as a veiled swipe at the hard-line position taken by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. An administration official said it was actually aimed at senators seeking to narrow the administration’s negotiating room.
Around the same time, as if the administration sought to assuage even as it chided, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel reassured Bloomberg News columnist Jeffrey Goldberg in an exclusive interview that America’s goal was still to prevent Iran from going nuclear. Hagel furthermore credited Netanyahu’s military threats against Iran as a factor that had pushed Tehran to the negotiation table.
At the October 29 meeting, administration officials, including National Security Adviser Susan Rice and the chief negotiator with Iran, Wendy Sherman, briefed Jewish leaders on the status of talks with the Iranians. According to officials briefed on the talks, Rice and her colleagues stressed that diplomacy held out the best prospect for resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis. The administration officials were said to have argued that imposing new sanctions while talks continue could send the wrong message and make it difficult for Iranian President Hassan Rowhani to sell a deal to the more conservative religious leadership in his country.
The administration would not provide any details regarding the content of the discussion held with Jewish leaders. National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan told the Forward that as a matter of policy the administration is not suggesting an “open-ended delay” for new sanctions. “At the same time, we believe it is important for Congress to reserve its ability to legislate for the moment when it’s most effective.” This would give the negotiations “the best chance to make real progress in achieving our shared goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” she said.