August 7, 2013, Washington, D.C. – More than three-quarters of the U.S. Senate signed a letter sent to the White House on August 5th, urging President Barack Obama to intensify pressure on Iran to end its alleged nuclear weapons program. The letter was spearheaded by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and received the signatures of 76 senators out of 100.
The letter expresses sympathy with the plight of the Iranian people and hope that the recent presidential election in Iran will “persuade Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to abandon Iran’s nuclear weapons program.” However, until there is a significant slowdown of Iran’s nuclear activities, the senators believe that the U.S. must “toughen sanctions” and “reinforce the credibility” of a military option while fully exploring a “diplomatic solution” with Iran.
The letter outlines what it calls the four “necessary strategic elements” in dealing with Iran. These include “an explicit and continuing message that we will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapons capability; a sincere demonstration of openness to negotiations; the maintenance and toughening of sanctions; and a convincing threat of the use of force that Iran will believe.”
The letter asks the president to “bring a renewed sense of urgency” to efforts to end Iran’s alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons, and states that Iran “needs to understand that the time for diplomacy is nearing its end. ” It acknowledges that Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, has made overtures to make the country’s nuclear program more transparent, but cautions that “Iran has used negotiations to stall for time.” The letter also notes that Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, remains the ultimate decision maker concerning the nuclear program.
The letter comes on the heels of the passage of H.R.850, also known as the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act of 2013. The bill, which among other things, aims to drastically cut Iran’s oil exports, passed the House on July 31st by a vote of 400 to 20, and has been sent to the Senate.
Another, more conciliatory letter being circulated by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), urges the president to reinvigorate diplomatic efforts to secure a verifiable agreement that ensures that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons. A similar letter was sent last month by 131 members of the House of Representatives, urging the administration to reinvigorate U.S. diplomacy with Iran
Click here to read the Menendez-Graham letter to President Obama.