President Obama just got a letter from 367 members of the House stressing that Iran must have no pathway to a nuclear weapon.
On Thursday, House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said there were 360 signatures on the letter. The next day, as it was sent to the White House, there were a few more.
Engel and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) began circulating the letter around Congress earlier this month.
The letter to Obama notes that “of the 12 sets of questions that the International Atomic Energy Agency has been seeking, Tehran has answered just part of one. Just last week, the IAEA reported that it is still concerned about signs of Iran’s military related activities, including designing a nuclear payload for a missile.”
“The potential military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program should be treated as a fundamental test of Tehran’s intention to uphold the final agreement. Unless we have a full understanding of Iran’s past program it will be impossible for the international community to judge Iran’s future breakout time with certainty.”
The letter notes Iran’s “decades of deception” and said “any inspection and verification regime must allow for short notice access to suspect locations, and verifiable constraints on Iran’s nuclear program must last for decades.”
The hundreds of lawmakers also said the administration cannot split Iran’s “destabilizing role in the region and state sponsorship of terrorism from the nuclear deal.”
“Iran’s Supreme Leader has also called for an expansion of his country’s ballistic missile program, yet another dimension of the potential threat posed by Iran,” the letter continues. “Iran’s role in fomenting instability in the region — not to mention Iran’s horrendous repression at home — demonstrates the risks of negotiating with a partner we cannot trust.”
The lawmakers promise that only if “convinced” that a final deal’s terms “foreclose any pathway to a bomb” will Congress “consider permanent sanctions relief.”
“The United States has had a longstanding interest in preventing Iran from achieving a nuclear weapons capability. Over the last twenty years, Congress has passed numerous pieces of legislation imposing sanctions on Iran to prevent that outcome, ultimately forcing Iran into negotiations. Should an agreement with Iran be reached, permanent sanctions relief from congressionally-mandated sanctions would require new legislation. In reviewing such an agreement, Congress must be convinced that its terms foreclose any pathway to a bomb, and only then will Congress be able to consider permanent sanctions relief.”
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee praised the letter, which was notably sent to Obama as J Street opened its conference in Washington. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough is scheduled to speak to the pro-Palestinian lobbying group tonight.