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A senior State Department official on Thursday urged members of Congress to hold off on sanctioning Iran while the Obama administration attempts to court the rogue regime, according to testimony offered before the Senate.
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman told lawmakers that it “would be helpful for the U.S. Senate to hold off on imposing additional sanctions on Iran,” according to Reuters.
Sherman, who serves as America’s lead negotiator with Iran, asked that lawmakers not pass additional sanctions on Iran ahead of a new round of negotiations with Tehran later this month.
Western sanctions on Iran have crippled its currency and plunged the country’s economy into chaos. Senators from both sides of the isle have been considering a new round of sanctions aimed at further choking off Tehran’s global oil sales.
However, Sherman said that new sanctions measures should be put on ice as the United States tries to extend a peaceful hand to Tehran.
"We will be looking for specific steps by Iran that address core issues, including but not limited to, the pace and scope of its enrichment program, the transparency of its overall nuclear program and (stockpiles) of enriched uranium," Sherman told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, according to Reuters.
"The Iranians in return will doubtless be seeking some relief from comprehensive international sanctions that are now in place," she said. "We have been clear that only concrete viable steps and verifiable steps, can offer a path to sanctions relief."
The United States and other Western nations will resume talks with Iran on Oct. 15 in a renewed bid to convince Tehran to give up its disputed nuclear program.
Negotiators are hoping to convince Tehran to limit its stockpiles of enriched uranium, the key component in a nuclear bomb.
Sen. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.), a leading advocate for tougher sanctions on Iran, criticized Sherman and the State Department for giving in to a regime that is known to deceive.
“The State Department should not aid and abet a European appeasement policy by pressuring the Senate to delay sanctions while the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism races toward a nuclear weapons capability,” Kirk said in a statement issued after Sherman’s testimony.
“The international community should judge Iranian leaders by their actions, not their words. So long as Iran continues to pursue a nuclear weapons capability, build longer range ballistic missiles, sponsor terrorism around the world and abuse human rights, the Senate should impose maximum economic pressure on Iran to give diplomacy a chance to succeed,” Kirk said.
A senior Senate GOP aide also criticized Sherman for her failed efforts to stop the North Koreans from building a nuclear weapon.
“Wendy Sherman brought us the North Korean nuclear weapons program in the late 90s, and unless Congress intervenes, she will most certainly bring us an Iranian nuclear weapons program,” the aide told the Washington Free Beacon.
Kirk and Sen. John Cornyn (R., Tex.) introduced the Iran Export Embargo Act in May, which aimed to stop the world from purchasing and transferring all goods and services tied to the Iranian government.
Senators could still go forward with new legislation, according to Senate sources.
Secretary of State “John Kerry and Wendy Sherman can apply all the pressure they want, but in the end, as the record since 2011 makes clear, we will drive over them and force these sanctions into law,” said the senior Senate aide familiar with the new measures under consideration.