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Congress & the Middle East: Senate Letter Urging President Obama to Step Up Sanctions on Iran

(August 3, 2013)

Following the inauguration of Iranian Hassan Rouhani, 76 members of the U.S. Senate sent a letter urging President Obama to step up sanctions and bring "a renewed sense of urgency" to stopping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
The letter, initiated by Sen. Robert Menendez [D-NJ], notes overtures by Rohani to make more transparent the Iranian nuclear program that he insists is peaceful, but also demands that Iran agree to remove 20 percent enriched uranium. Rohani has refused to suspend uranium enrichment.

Dear President Obama:

With the election of Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian people signaled their clear dissatisfaction with Iran’s government and its policies. We hope such a surprising and convincing electoral outcome will persuade Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to abandon Iran’s nuclear weapons quest. But until we see a significant slowdown of Iran’s nuclear activities, we believe our nation must toughen sanctions and reinforce the credibility of our option to use military force at the same time as we fully explore a diplomatic solution to our dispute with Iran.

We deeply sympathize with the plight of the Iranian people, who have suffered under the Khamenei regime. We note that President-elect Rouhani has pledged re-engagement with the P5+1 and promised to bring transparency to Iran’s nuclear program. At the same time, Iran has used negotiations in the past to stall for time, and in any event, Khamenei is the ultimate decision-maker for Iran’s nuclear program. Moreover, Iran today continues its large-scale installation of advanced centrifuges. This will soon put it in the position to be able to rapidly produce weapons-grade uranium, bringing Tehran to the brink of a nuclear weapons capability.

Accordingly, Mr. President, we urge you to bring a renewed sense of urgency to the process. We need to understand quickly whether Tehran is at last ready to negotiate seriously. Iran needs to understand that the time for diplomacy is nearing its end. We implore you to demand immediate serious moves on Iran’s part. Iran should move quickly toward compliance with United Nations Security Council resolutions demanding it suspend enrichment. Iran must cease installing centrifuges, agree to the removal of 20 percent enriched uranium from Iran, and cease work on the heavy water reactor being built in Arak.

We believe there are four strategic elements necessary to achieve resolution of this issue: 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. We must be prepared to act, and Iran must see that we are prepared.

Mr. President, we share your conviction that Iran must not be allowed to have a nuclear weapon. We want you to know that you will have our support in doing all you can to resolve on an urgent basis this most pressing challenge to international security.


Robert Menendez
Lindsey Graham
Robert Casey, Jr.
Roy Blunt
Tim Kaine
Kelly Ayote
John Boozman
Mike Crapo
Jeff Flake
Ron Johnson
Richard Burr
Joe Manchin III
Pat Roberts
Chuck Grassley
Jerry Moran
John Cornyn
James Inhofe
John Hoeven
Johnny Isakson
Mark Begich
Christopher Coons
Ben Cardin
Orrin Hatch
Roger Wicker
Patty Murray
Kay Hagan
Barbara Mikulski
Deb Fischer
Mike Lee
John Thune
James Risch
Susan M. Collins
Rob Portman
Brian Schatz
Debbie Stabenow
Ted Cruz
Marco Rubio
Charles Schumer
Edward Markey
Joe Donnelly
Bill Nelson
Dean Heller
Mark Pryor
Daniel Coats
Kirsten Gillibrand
Michael Bennet
David Vitter
Saxby Chambliss
Michael Enzi
Claire McCaskil
John Barrasso
Patrick Toomey
Mitch McConnell
Sherrod Brown
Mark Warner
Jack Reed
Richard Blumenthal
Mazie Hirono
Thad Cochran
Jeanne Shaheen
Sheldon Whitehouse
Tim Scott
Angus King Jr
Maria Cantwell
Jeff Merkley
Amy Klobuchar
Mike Johanns
Al Franken
Jeff Sessions
Mary Landrieu
Lamar Alexander
John McCain
Jeff Chiesa
Heidi Heitkamp
Christopher Murphy
Elizabeth Warren

Sources: The Telegraph