Washington • A bipartisan group of 26 senators introduced legislation Thursday that threatened new sanctions against Iran, dismissing warnings from the White House that such a move could scuttle efforts to peacefully resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear program.
The bill, called the "Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013," drew a rebuke from the Obama administration and highlighted deep divisions among Senate Democrats on whether to heap new pressures on Tehran's government while sensitive diplomacy is underway. Hours after the bill's introduction, a separate group of senior Democrats revealed in a letter that U.S. intelligence agencies had cautioned lawmakers in private briefings about the consequences of new sanctions. A Dec. 10 intelligence assessment had concluded that new punitive measures would "undermine the prospects for a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran," according to the letter, signed by 10 Democrats.
The escalation in the fight over sanctions comes less than four weeks after diplomats from Iran and six world powers signed a historic accord in Geneva that temporarily freezes key parts of Tehran's nuclear program in return for short-term relief from some economic sanctions. Negotiators set a six-month deadline for hammering out a permanent treaty that would set strict limits on Iran's nuclear capabilities.