WASHINGTON -- As the United States finally puts a decade of war behind it, a group of senators, including 15 Democrats, is defying the White House and threatening to push the country into a fresh war with Iran.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) is leading the charge to pass legislation in January that would impose tougher sanctions on Iran, despite dire warnings from the White House, Iranian leaders, 10 Democratic committee chairs and a host of liberal groups that such an effort could sink a delicate nuclear agreement already in place. Under that Nov. 24 deal, Tehran would curb its nuclear program in exchange for some relief from economic sanctions for a period of six months.
The Senate bill, which has 19 Republican cosponsors, takes a hard line, levying new sanctions on Iran unless the country's leaders agree to abandon all uranium enrichment -- what some have called an "absurd" stance. In the past, both John Kerry, then a U.S. senator, and Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, have said that Iran has the right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said earlier this month that if the Senate moved forward with its bill, the current nuclear deal would be dead. A senior Obama administration official went further, telling The Huffington Post that Senate action makes it "far more likely that we'll be left only with a military option" regarding Iran.
Here are the 15 Democratic senators willing to risk a war with Iran rather than let White House and Iranian leaders continue negotiations.
1. Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.), the bill's sponsor
2. Sen. Mark Begich (Alaska)
3. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.)
4. Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.)
5. Sen. Ben Cardin (Md.)
6. Sen. Bob Casey (Pa.)
7. Sen. Chris Coons (Del.)
8. Sen. Joe Donnelly (Ind.)
9. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.)
10. Sen. Kay Hagan (N.C.)
11. Sen. Mary Landrieu (La.)
12. Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.)
13. Sen. Mark Pryor (Ark.)
14. Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.)
15. Sen. Mark Warner (Va.)
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated Secretary of State John Kerry's stance on Iran's right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. As a senator, Kerry said that he believed Iran had such a right. But as secretary of state, he said last month that "there is no inherent right to enrich" and that the current proposed agreement states that Iran could only do that by mutual agreement.
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