UNION BEACH, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said Friday that he wants to see new sanctions Iran if no agreement is reached on nuclear negotiations, despite concerns from President Barack Obama that such sanctions could jeopardize a deal.
Menendez said he favors sanctions that would take effect in July.
“This is where I have a fundamental disagreement with the president,” Menendez said. “All I’m saying – let us put in prospective sanctions that don’t get imposed – don’t get imposed – until July, which is well after the period of time that the president has said there will be an agreement or not.”
He remarked that the U.S. was negotiating with Iran from a weak position.
“I do not believe in negotiating out of weakness. I believe in negotiating out of strength,” Menendez said on WCBS 880. “I think weakness invites provocation. I think strength avoids it.”
The United States and the rest of the so-called P5 +1, which also includes the United Kingdom, China, France, Germany and Russia, is currently embroiled in a series of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, CBS News reported.
However, other Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have also expressed support for legislation that would impose new sanctions on Iran should the negotiations fail by June 30, CBS News reported.
Obama’s message for Congress on Friday was, “Just hold your fire.”
Should Congress pass the bill, the president promised to veto it. He gave the same message to a closed meeting with Democrats earlier this week, he said.
“Nobody in the world, least of all the Iranians” doubts that the U.S. could impose new sanctions should negotiations fail, he said. “That’s not a hard vote for me to get through Congress. I think the Iranians know that is certainly in our back pocket.”
In the meantime, Obama said, “Why is it we would have to take actions that might jeopardize the possibility of getting a deal over the next 60 or 90 days? What is it precisely that is going to be accomplished?
“Conversely, should Congress pass this bill, “the likelihood of the interim negotiations collapsing is very high,” Obama said.
The president added, “Congress should be aware if this diplomatic negotiation fails, then the risk and likelihood this ends up at some point being a military confrontation is heightened.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron has also appealed directly to some senators in the U.S. Congress to reconsider a bill that would open up the possibility of new sanctions against Iran, CBS News reported.
“I have contacted a couple of senators this morning, and I may speak to one or two more this afternoon,” Cameron said during a joint press conference with President Obama at the White House Friday. The prime minister arrived in Washington Thursday to meet with the president and his administration to discuss a range of issues.
But Menendez said he does not buy the claim that imposing a threat of sanctions would scuttle all diplomatic efforts.
“It is counterintuitive to understand that somehow, Iran will walk away because of some sanctions that would never take place if they strike a deal,” Menendez said.
Obama acknowledged that the chances of reaching a diplomatic deal with Iran are “probably less than 50-50.” But he called the coalition at the negotiating table “remarkable” and noted that they