WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. officials said Tuesday that an interim deal with Iran that promises to curb its nuclear program in exchange for some relief from economic sanctions does not mean that Tehran is open for business.
Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman and David Cohen, undersecretary for terrorism and financing, acknowledged that European businesses are rushing to Iran to prepare for the possibility that all sanctions will be lifted if a comprehensive agreement is reached preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
Both Sherman and Cohen sought to reassure members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — some of whom are eager to restore sanctions against Iran — that the U.S. will continue to enforce existing sanctions even as some are being eased and that those who violate them will be targeted.
"As part of this effort, over the last six weeks I have traveled to the U.K., Germany, Italy, Austria, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates carrying this message: 'Iran is not open for business,'" Cohen told skeptical lawmakers. "In all of these engagements we have made clear that we will continue to respond to Iran's efforts to evade our sanctions wherever they may occur. ... We are poised to deploy our tools against anyone, anywhere, who violates our sanctions, just as we have always done."
"Any deal the administration reaches with Iran must be verifiable, effective, and prevent Iran from ever developing even one nuclear weapon," said Sen. Robert Menendez, chairman of the committee.
"In my view, based on the parameters described in the joint plan of action, and Iranian comments in the days that have followed, I am very concerned about Iran's willingness to reach such an agreement," said Menendez, D-N.J. "We have placed our incredibly effective international sanctions regime on the line without clearly defining the parameters of what we expect in a final agreement."
Iran agreed in November to slow its uranium enrichment program to a level that is far below what would be necessary to make a nuclear bomb. It also agreed to giving international inspectors more access to its facilities as a way to give world leaders confidence that it is not trying to build weapons in secret.
In exchange, the U.S. and five other nations — Britain, Germany, France, Russia and China — agreed to ease an estimated $7 billion worth of international sanctions that have had a detrimental effect on Iran's economy. The interim agreement is to last for six months while negotiators try to broker a final settlement.