Obama in State of the Union pledges to veto new Iran sanctions

Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Obama said in his State of the Union address that he will veto any new Iran sanctions.

“There are no guarantees that negotiations will succeed, and I keep all options on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran,” Obama said in prepared remarks the White House posted online just minutes before the speech, a first.

“But new sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails — alienating America from its allies; and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense. That is why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress.”

Two senators, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) are set to introduce new sanctions that would trigger should Iran walk away from talks now underway between Iran and the major powers aimed at swapping sanctions relief for guarantees that Iran will not advance toward a nuclear weapon.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee strongly backs the bill, although it has yet to be formally introduced, in part because of resistance from some Democratic senators.

Obama cast his pledge to veto new sanctions as part of an overall theme in his speech of emphasizing diplomacy as a means equal to force in maintaining U.S. influence.

“The American people expect us to only go to war as a last resort, and I intend to stay true to that wisdom,” he said. Obama cited the fight against anti-Semitism in describing what he said was a “pillar” of his foreign policy, respecting human dignity.

“As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we’re threatened, which is why I’ve prohibited torture, and worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained,” he said. “It’s why we speak out against the deplorable anti-Semitism that has resurfaced in certain parts of the world. It’s why we continue to reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims — the vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace.”