As Tehran held its largest anti-U.S. rally in years, several leading
Jewish groups say they are resisting pressure from President Obama to
stop lobbying for new Iran sanctions.
Tens of thousands of
demonstrators joined Monday in chants of "Death to America" to mark the
anniversary of the 1979 takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran.
the global arrogance and hostile policies of America is the symbol of
our national solidarity," said Saeed Jalili, a leading opponent of
nuclear talks and senior adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali
Protester Reza Farahbakhsh called the rally "more
spirited" than recent years, when crowds dwindled to a few thousand and
had to be padded with school children.
The protest comes as Iran prepares to resume negotiations Thursday
with the West over opening up its nuclear program to inspection to prove
it is not trying to make nuclear weapons. Khamenei tweeted a message
Monday that he is not optimistic about negotiations.
He warned of
"trusting an enemy who smiles" and who also threatens military action,
as Israel and the Obama administration have done, if negotiations fail
to rein in Iran's nuclear program.
Iran wants an end to economic
sanctions imposed by the West to pressure it to permit inspections. But
members of Congress are proposing even tougher sanctions. Obama wants
them to hold off, and tried to enlist pro-Israeli groups to join his
call in a meeting took place as State Department officials prepare to
travel to Geneva for more talks.
The White House says increasing
pressure on Iran may make Iran's leaders less willing to negotiate at
the Geneva meetings that begin Thursday.
"They were hoping we would indicate to various Senators they put the
brakes on efforts to ratchet up sanctions, given the ongoing
negotiations" with the Iranians, said David Harris, executive director
of the American Jewish Committee, whose Washington representative
attended the meeting.
While the meeting was cordial and respectful at all times, Harris said his group disagreed.
(AJC) believe that if the Senate pulls back on the new round of
sanctions legislation, that - while some would wish the Iranians to see
this as a good will gesture - we think the Iranians would see this as a
weakening of the American position," Harris told USA TODAY.
group of Republican Senators, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Kelly Ayotte of New
Hampshire and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have said they will
introduce legislation as early as next week to boost sanctions on Iran
to increase pressure on the Islamic republic to make convincing
concessions on its nuclear program.
The House of Representatives
passed legislation to toughen sanctions on Iran in July, but several
Democratic and Republican senators have agreed to back a delay. If they
block a new bill, Kirk told the Associated Press he would try to attach
new sanctions to the annual defense policy bill the Senate could
consider as early as the week of Nov. 12.
Iran's new President Hassan Rouhani says his oil-rich country is
pursuing nuclear technology for energy, research and medical purposes.
But inspectors for the United Nations reported evidence that the regime
experimented with nuclear weapons components. And Iran's own statements
indicate it has stockpiled enriched uranium beyond its energy or
The U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency
reported that Iran had concealed many aspects of its nuclear activities
in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that it signed.
Iran has also blocked IAEA inspectors from visiting its nuclear sites as
required by the pact.
Meanwhile, Iran has offered to restart
stalled talks with the West on its nuclear program after years of
economic sanctions imposed by the USA and other countries.
of greater sanctions in the Senate say the sanctions must be
intensified to force Iran not only to continue with talks but to take
actions to ramp back its nuclear program. The White House has argued
that new Iran sanctions should wait until a time when more pressure may
be needed in the negotiations.
"The comprehensive economic and
diplomatic pressure this Administration has applied to Iran over the
past four years has had its intended effect" of creating "the
opportunity to test Iranian intentions to seek an enduring diplomatic
solution," Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the National Security
"No one is suggesting an open-ended delay for new sanctions, and
there may come a point where additional sanctions are necessary," she
said. "At the same time, we believe it is important for Congress to
reserve its ability to legislate for the moment when it's most effective
in order to give the current negotiations the best chance to make real
progress in achieving our shared goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a
Harris said those present at the White House
meeting agreed on the Obama administration's ultimate goal but differed
on how best to reach it. Abraham Foxman, national director of the
Anti-Defamation League, who was at the meeting, said his group
understands the Obama administration's concerns now that negotiations
Current sanctions have only worked at bringing the
Iranians to negotiate, Foxman said. "The Iranians haven't stopped,
haven't done anything, so why stop considering it?"
Though the ADL
thinks "Congress should act," Foxman said his organization will
refrain from active lobbying for new sanctions for a couple weeks.
participants included leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major
American Jewish Organizations, the Anti-Defamation League and the
American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
AIPAC President Michael Kassen issued a statement Saturday night
saying AIPAC supports diplomatic efforts "to achieve an end to Iran's
nuclear program," but that additional sanctions "are vital for diplomacy
"AIPAC continues to support congressional action to
adopt legislation to further strengthen sanctions and there will be
absolutely no pause, delay or moratorium in our efforts," Kassen said.
Street, a dovish group that has backed all efforts for increased Iran
sanctions until now, says increasing sanctions would be
counterproductive. J Street was not invited to the talks because it
already backed the administration, said Alan Elsner, the group's vice
president for communications.
Elsner said pushing for additional
sanctions now will strengthen the opponents of Iran President Hassan
Rouhani and may pressure him to back away from the new talks.
should not be rewarded "just for nice words," but that Congress should
resist "inserting itself into this right now and risking the Iranian
negotiations," Elsner said. "Should that become an issue on the table we
would definitely work to oppose it."