Breaking with the recent past, Congress will not send a new Iran sanctions law to the president's desk this summer, and is unlikely to get new economic penalties against Tehran on the books until the end of 2013, at the earliest.
That will give the Obama administration some breathing room as it looks to size up Iranian president-elect Hassan Rouhani and his plans for Iran's nuclear enrichment program.
But the slowdown on new sanctions this year is starting to worry hawks on Capitol Hill and in Israel.
The moderate Rouhani's surprising victory — he defeated several hardliners viewed as much closer to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — has given new life to arguments inside the United States that the West should take a more conciliatory approach to Tehran, and that tightening sanctions would hurt, not help, the prospects for resolving the nuclear standoff.
As Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a hawkish think tank, described it, "there's a whole theological debate going on in Washington" over the diplomatic tact to take with Iran, post-election.
On Monday, a set of prominent former U.S. officials sent a letter to President Barack Obama asserting that Rouhani's election "presents a major potential opportunity to reinvigorate diplomatic efforts to resolve the standoff over Iran's nuclear program."