By Mary Orndorff Troyan
The deal announced last weekend to limit Iran's nuclear program isn't strict enough, and Congress should approve tougher economic sanctions against the country, Sen. Lindsey Graham said Monday.
"I think the new round of sanctions will be focused on the end game that will make the world safe and prevent Iran from having nuclear capability," Graham said on CNN. "Right now, the interim deal leaves their capability totally intact."
Graham is among a bipartisan chorus of critics on Capitol Hill who, like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, say the new six-month agreement isn't tough enough. It removes about $7 billion in sanctions against Iran in exchange for Iran's agreement to slow its nuclear program.
"My goal is to get new sanctions in place, and the only way they can be relieved is if you dismantle the reactor, not suspend construction -- that you stop enrichment, not just pause it," Graham said.
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., also said he has "serious reservations" about the deal. "We need to make sure Iran's nuclear capabilities are halted -- not slowed down, but halted," Scott said in a statement.
"A permanent deal must have significantly stronger provisions ensuring Iran cannot develop nuclear weapons, and I look forward to working towards that bipartisan goal in the U.S. Senate."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said last week he would schedule a vote on new sanctions after lawmakers return from the Thanksgiving break. The Democratic chairmen of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee and the Foreign Relations Committee are expected to work on the bill.
"They will study this. They will hold hearings if necessary, and if we need work on this, if we need stronger sanctions, I am sure we will do that," Reid said Monday in a radio interview from Nevada.
The White House calls the Iran deal a substantive first step that halts progress on the country's nuclear program and neutralizes part of its stockpile of enriched nuclear fuel. President Barack Obama is urging Congress to give the deal a chance to work before imposing more sanctions.
"Because doing so would derail this promising first step, alienate us from our allies and risk unraveling the coalition that enabled our sanctions to be enforced in the first place," Obama said.