Twenty-three senators — all Democrats except for independents Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Angus King (I-Maine) — sent President Obama a letter Saturday indicating their support for his negotiations with Iran yet warning that the Islamic Republic’s deception is showing through.
It follows last week’s letter spearheaded by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) demanding that Obama meet core principles, including clear consequences, in any final nuclear agreement with Iran.
Both communications indicate Obama does not have a veto-proof majority to beat back a new sanctions effort in Congress.
Saturday’s letter includes Democratic chairmen who banded together to oppose a new sanctions effort on the premise that Obama needed time to work his deal with Iran, including Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-S.D.).
“Iran’s history of delay, deception, and dissembling on its nuclear program raises serious concerns that Iran will use prolonged negotiations as a tool to secure an economic lifeline while it continues to make progress towards a nuclear weapon. Iran’s leaders must understand that further sanctions relief will require Tehran to abandon its pursuit of a nuclear weapon and fully disclose its nuclear activities,” states the letter.
“…Because we believe any agreement should include stringent transparency measures to guarantee that Iran cannot develop an undetectable nuclear weapons breakout capability, Tehran must fully and verifiably implement its Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, ratify and implement the Additional Protocol, answer pending IAEA questions, and comply with the transparency measures requested by the Director General of the IAEA, as well as with any additional verification and monitoring measures necessary to ensure Iran is abiding by the terms of any agreement. Such measures should include an agreement granting the IAEA necessary access to inspect all suspect sites, including military facilities, and providing an unfettered ability to interview Iranian scientists and personnel associated with Iran’s nuclear program.”
The senators said they expect the administration “to keep Congress regularly apprised of the details” as negotiations continue and the July 20 deadline swiftly approaches.
Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have expressed concern that Obama will come back to lawmakers at that time and announce the deadline has been extended.
“And, because any long-term sanctions relief will require Congressional action, we urge you to consult closely with us so that we can determine the parameters of such relief in the event an agreement is reached, or, if no agreement is reached or Iran violates the interim agreement, so that we can act swiftly to consider additional sanctions and steps necessary to change Iran’s calculation,” the Levin letter continues.
“Finally, although the P5+1 process is focused on Iran’s nuclear program, we remain deeply concerned by Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism, its horrendous human rights record, its efforts to destabilize its neighbors, its pursuit of intercontinental ballistic missiles, and its threats against our ally, Israel, as well as the fates of American citizens detained by Iran. We want to work with you to address these concerns as part of a broader strategy of dealing with Iran. We are hopeful your two-track strategy will convince Iran to change course and abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons. None of us desires military conflict, but as you yourself have acknowledged, we must keep all options on the table to prevent this dangerous regime from acquiring nuclear weapons.”