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February 12, 2016

83 Senators Send Iran Letter to Obama

A toughly worded letter to President Barack Obama on the Iran nuclear negotiations signed by 83 senators lays out principles for any agreement and warns of tough new sanctions on Iran if the talks fail.

“We must signal unequivocally to Iran that rejecting negotiations and continuing its nuclear weapon program will lead to much more dramatic sanctions, including further limitations on Iran’s exports of crude oil and petroleum products,” the letter states.

The letter was led by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., Mark S. Kirk, R-Ill., Chris Coons, D-Del., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.

Here’s the letter (those who signed at the bottom):

Dear Mr. President:

We all hope that nuclear negotiations succeed in preventing Iran from ever developing a nuclear weapons capability. For diplomacy to succeed, however, we must couple our willingness to negotiate with a united and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime.

We believe, as you do, that the pressure from economic sanctions brought Iran to the table, and that it must continue until Iran abandons its efforts to build a nuclear weapon. We also agree pressure will intensify if Iran violates the interim agreement, uses the talks simply as a delaying tactic, or walks away from the table.

For twenty years, Congress has consistently focused attention on the threat of the Iranian program and taken the lead in initiating sanctions. Congress has repeatedly stated that preventing an Iranian nuclear capability is a key goal of U.S. foreign policy. Nine separate pieces of sanctions legislation have passed Congress since 1996. We appreciate your continued commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and your efforts to implement the sanctions, which isolated and pressured the regime into negotiations.

We believe that Congress has a continuing role to play to improve the prospects for success in the talks with Iran. As these negotiations proceed, we will outline our views about the essential goals of a final agreement with Iran, continue oversight of the interim agreement and the existing sanctions regime, and signal the consequences that will follow if Iran rejects an agreement that brings to an end its nuclear weapons ambitions.

We write now to express our support for the following core principles we believe are consistent with your administration’s positions, and urge you to insist on their realization in a final agreement with Iran:

· We believe that Iran has no inherent right to enrichment under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

· We believe any agreement must dismantle Iran’s nuclear weapons program and prevent it from ever having a uranium or plutonium path to a nuclear bomb.

· We believe Iran has no reason to have an enrichment facility like Fordow, that the regime must give up its heavy water reactor at Arak, and that it must fully explain the questionable activities in which it engaged at Parchin and other facilities.

· We believe Iran must fully resolve concerns addressed in United Nations Security Council resolutions, including any military dimensions of its nuclear program.

· We believe Iran must also submit to a long-term and intrusive inspection and verification regime to achieve the goal described in the Joint Plan of Action of “reaffirm[ing] that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek or develop any nuclear weapons.”

· Finally, we believe Iran must not be allowed during these negotiations to circumvent sanctions. We view this period as one fraught with the danger of companies and countries looking to improve their commercial position in Tehran, especially given recent reports of rising purchases of Iranian oil. Iran cannot be allowed to be open for business. As you have stated, we must come down on those who are undermining sanctions “like a ton of bricks.”

We also believe that any agreement with Iran that could lead to the proliferation of nuclear weapons or nuclear enrichment programs in the region should be rejected.

As you have said, Congress has always been a partner in presidential efforts to impose economic sanctions on Iran. Should an acceptable final agreement be reached, your administration will need to work together with Congress to enact implementing legislation to provide longer term sanctions relief beyond existing waiver authorities – either through suspension, repeal or amendment of statutory sanctions. Should negotiations fail or Iran violate the Joint Plan of Action, Congress will need to ensure that the legislative authority exists to rapidly and dramatically expand sanctions. We need to work together now to prepare for either eventuality.

Most importantly, Iran must clearly understand the consequences of failing to reach an acceptable final agreement. We must signal unequivocally to Iran that rejecting negotiations and continuing its nuclear weapon program will lead to much more dramatic sanctions, including further limitations on Iran’s exports of crude oil and petroleum products.

Mr. President, the negotiations with Iran are likely to be arduous. We look forward to working with you on a bipartisan basis to protect America and our allies by preventing Iran from ever developing or building nuclear weapons.

Sincerely,

Robert Menendez
Lindsey Graham
Charles E. Schumer
Mark Kirk
Christopher A. Coons
Kelly Ayotte
Richard J. Durbin
Mitch McConnell
Tim Kaine
John McCain
Mark Begich
James E. Risch
Benjamin L. Cardin
Dan Coats
Kay R. Hagan
Susan M. Collins
Barbara A. Mikulski
Orrin G. Hatch
Michael F. Bennet
Pat Roberts
Mark L. Pryor
Rob Portman
Debbie Stabenow
Mike Crapo
Sheldon Whitehouse
Patrick J. Toomey
John Walsh
John Boozman
Heidi Heitkamp
Roger F. Wicker
Mazie K. Hirono
Mike Johanns
Martin Heinrich
Dean Heller
Joe Donnelly
Tim Scott
Angus S. King, Jr.
Jeff Sessions
Mary L. Landrieu
David Vitter
Cory Booker
John Hoeven
Patty Murray
Richard Burr
Robert P. Casey, Jr.
Ron Johnson
Kirsten E. Gillibrand
Jerry Moran
Jeanne Shaheen
Chuck Grassley
Al Franken
Johnny Isakson
Christopher Murphy
Lisa Murkowski
Mark Udall
Michael B. Enzi
Claire McCaskill
Thad Cochran
Jon Tester
Ted Cruz
Elizabeth Warren
Mike Lee
Edward J. Markey
John Cornyn
Lamar Alexander
John Thune
Mark R. Warner
Deb Fischer
Richard Blumenthal
Jeff Merkley
Joe Manchin III
Saxby Chambliss
Amy Klobuchar
Richard C. Shelby
Maria Cantwell
John Barrasso
Tom Coburn
Ron Wyden
Roy Blunt
Tom Udall
Jack Reed
Marco Rubio
Bill Nelson

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