A group of U.S. senators moved Thursday to slap fresh sanctions on Iran should it fail to cooperate with talks on its nuclear program, in a move the White House warned could derail diplomatic progress with Tehran.
U.S. President Barack Obama would veto the sanctions should they pass Congress, spokesman Jay Carney said.
The Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act, introduced by prominent senators from both sides of the aisle and backed by a quarter of the upper chamber of Congress, would institute sanctions if Iran violates the interim agreement reached last month in Geneva or if a final agreement is not reached.
It would put new restrictions on Iranian petroleum purchases and institute new penalties on the Iranian economy, including the engineering, mining and construction sectors.
"The burden rests with Iran to negotiate in good faith and verifiably terminate its nuclear weapons program. Prospective sanctions will influence Iran's calculus and accelerate that process toward achieving a meaningful diplomatic resolution," said Senator Robert Menendez, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Obama has been urging Congress for weeks to hold off on fresh sanctions to give talks between Iran and world powers a chance to succeed.
"It is our view that it is very important to refrain from taking an action that would potentially disrupt the opportunity here for a diplomatic resolution of this challenge," Carney said.
"And so we don't want to see actions that would proactively undermine American diplomacy, which is what we fear that actions like passing new sanctions, no matter how they're structured, would be received, both by our international partners and obviously by Iran."

New Iran Bill Sets Stage for Obama-Senate Battle

Bill Endorses Any Future Israeli Attack on Iran

by Jason Ditz, December 19, 2013
Setting the stage for the protracted recess battle for votes, 26 co-sponsors introducedthe Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013 (pdf) today, aimed at derailing the ongoing diplomacy with Iran by imposing new sanctions in violation of the interim P5+1 deal.
The bill makes as statements of fact several outright false claims, including the idea that Iran could have enough “weapons-grade uranium for a bomb in one to 2 months’ time,” despite Iran never attempting to produce any uranium above 20 percent enrichment.
It goes on to demand any diplomatic deal with Iran require the whole of their civilian nuclear program be dismantled, and endorses any Israeli attacks on Iran, pledging US government support for any war Israel starts with Iran.
10 Senate committee chairs have come out against the bill, issuing an open letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D – NV) urging “consultations” before it is brought for a vote, and noting that it would derail negotiations.
Which seems to be very much the point for its hawkish advocates, and author Sen. Mark Kirk (R – IL) presented it as a move against “Iranian deception,” by which he means diplomacy in general.
President Obama has promised a veto of the bill, and with a veto likely to come no sooner than January, the holiday recess is sure to be filled with heavy lobbying to see if the hawks can get a veto-proof majority. With the Israeli lobbying factions coming out strongly for the pact, it’s going to be a major battle.