Hillary Clinton, former secretary of state and possible 2016 presidential candidate, told lawmakers on Capitol Hill that she supports the Obama administration's move to push negotiations with Iran over its nuclear programs and that Congress should not pass new economic sanctions.
Clinton sent a Jan. 26 letter to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which he released this weekend.
"Now that serious negotiations are finally under way, we should do everything we can to test whether they can advance a permanent solution," she wrote. "As President Obama said, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed, while keeping all options on the table."
Levin called her letter a "thoughtful, persuasive argument from an experienced, respected senior official."
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"It makes clear Secretary Clinton's belief that tough sanctions helped bring Iran to the negotiating table, and that Congress and the administration are poised to act if Iran violates its commitments or fails to negotiate in good faith toward a final agreement," he said. "Her letter is another strong signal to Congress that we should not take any legislative action at this time that would damage international unity or play into the hands of hard-liners in Iran who oppose negotiations."
Clinton has shied away from more contentious issues, such as Social Security benefits and Iran’s nuclear program. But she has been pushed to publicly express her views on the issue by activists.
Iran has started suspending some its uranium enrichment as part of a deal between Tehran and world powers to rein in the nation's nuclear program in return for the lifting of some economic sanctions, according to an international watchdog. Negotiators for the nations are working on a longer-term, more comprehensive agreement.
Obama has been lobbying lawmakers not to implement additional sanctions against Iran, which he says could derail the diplomatic efforts.
The House of Representatives already voted for new sanctions against Tehran in July, a measure that has not been taken up in the Senate. The sanctions would not take effect unless the negotiations fail. Obama has threatened to veto a Senate bill calling for additional sanctions, which may already have enough support to override a veto.
Supporters of the Senate bill, the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013, argue that the bill will pressure the Iranians to negotiate in good faith or face economic distress.