Sen. Bob Corker is considering legislation that would block the Obama administration from easing sanctions on Iran, as the U.S. prepares for talks this week with Tehran on its nuclear program.
An aide to Corker, R-Tenn., confirms to Fox News Corker is considering a proposal that would prohibit the White House from loosening sanctions on the Iranian regime unless it made major concessions on its missile and nuclear programs. Corker’s plans were first reported by The Daily Beast.
Corker’s legislation would require concessions far beyond those currently being considered ahead of Iran’s talks with the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany in Geneva.
"We've crafted an amendment to freeze the administration in and make it so they are unable to reduce the sanctions unless certain things occur," Corker told The Daily Beast. "They have the ability now to waive sanctions. But we're very concerned that in their desire to make any deal that they may in fact do something that is very bad for our country."
If Corker’s legislation came to fruition, it could pose a significant obstacle to negotiators already dealing with resistance from both Washington and hard-liners in Iran.
Iranian hard-liners want significant sanctions reductions in exchange for scaling back enrichment, while some U.S. lawmakers want the enrichment to stop altogether in exchange for loosening sanctions. In the talks Thursday and Friday, negotiators will face strong pressure from both camps even as they try to find common ground among their own positions.
The talks concern the size and output of Iran's enrichment program, which can create both reactor fuel and weapons-grade material suitable for a nuclear bomb. Iran insists it is pursuing only nuclear energy, medical treatments and research. However, new reformist President Hassan Rouhani has indicated he could cut back on the nuclear program in exchange for an easing of the crippling economic sanctions.
Both the U.S. administration and Iran's clerical leadership are urging critics at home to support the talks. In Tehran on Sunday, Khamenei asked Iranians not to "weaken" the negotiators, and deputy U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Monday that "the U.S. needs to speak with one voice when we're sitting down at the table."
A senior U.S. official, speaking to reporters on Wednesday said both sides are coming to the table Thursday with an understanding of what they want from each other as a `'first step" -- and what they are willing to give in return. She asked for anonymity as a condition for participation in her briefing.
She said the six world powers are ready to offer `'limited, targeted and reversible" sanctions relief in response to agreement by Iran to start rolling back activities that could be used to make weapons.
But in a nod to skeptics in Congress, she emphasized that any economic relief given Iran can be canceled, should Tehran renege on commitments it makes in Geneva. And she said the six powers were looking to test the durability of any initial nuclear limits Iran agreed to by waiting -- possibly for as long as for six months -- after such agreement before any sanctions relief kicked in..
Corker says his plan would bar the White House from creating any limited sanctions relief before Iran had actually scaled back its nuclear program.
"This would keep an interim deal from happening unless there is actual tangible changes that take place, Corker told the Daily Beast.
In Tehran, Iran's Revolutionary Guard leaders have been mollified somewhat for now by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's suggestion that he will give Rouhani only a limited time to negotiate an end to the sanctions. Underscoring the support that the hard-liners enjoy in Tehran, tens of thousands marked Monday's anniversary of the 1979 storming of the U.S. Embassy with chants of "Death to America!"
The Associated Press contributed to this report