Sen. Johnson says new sanctions could rupture P5+1 negotiations

Senator Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) said on Thursday that a new round of U.S. sanctions against Iran could rupture the unity of the international coalition negotiating for Iran's denuclearization.

Johnson, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, made the remarks on Thursday as part of his opening statement at a hearing exploring the bilateral nuclear agreement with Iran. The hearing was part of an effort to look into the interim agreement with Iran in greater detail, assess prospects for a more comprehensive final agreement and explore the likely effects of new sanctions legislation.

Johnson said that while he supports strong sanctions, he said it may the most reasonable course of action to pause additional sanctions against Iran while negotiations take place.

"The history of our relationship with Iran is littered with missed opportunities, on both sides," Johnson said. "I want to assess the formal analysis the committee is to receive today from the director of national intelligence on the effects on negotiations and on our P5+1 partners of Congressional action on new sanctions, but I agree that the administration's request for a diplomatic pause is reasonable. A new round of U.S. sanctions now could rupture the unity of the international coalition against Iran's nuclear program."

Johnson said the current negotiations with Iran may be the last best chance to resolve the nuclear crisis by diplomacy. He said the U.S. should not do anything counterproductive that could damage Western unity on the issue. That way, if talks fail, it will be clear that Iran caused the failure.

"We should not give Iran, the P5+1 countries or other nations a pretext to lay responsibility for their collapse on us," Johnson said. "Ultimately, while some of us might differ on tactics, it is clear we all share the same goal: to ensure that Iran does not achieve a nuclear weapon, and to do that diplomatically if possible, while recognizing that other alternatives remain on the table."