Senators Storm to Back Letter Urging Obama to Press Iran

Letter, lobbied for by AIPAC, says U.S. must provide a credible military threat against Iran while seeking a diplomatic solution.

An AIPAC-backed letter urging U.S. President Barack Obama to exert greater pressure on Iran to end its suspected nuclear weapons program garnered the signatures of 76 senators.

The letter, which also called on Obama to seek avenues to diplomatic resolution, outlines what it says are the four “necessary strategic elements” to dealing with Iran: “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,” said the letter, which was initiated by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The letter notes overtures by new Iranian President Hassan Rohani to make more transparent a nuclear program Iran insists is peaceful, but also demands that Iran agree to remove 20 percent enriched uranium, which Rohani has said is a non-starter.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee lobbied for the letter signed by more than three-fourths of the 100 senators. The letter closed Friday and is due to be sent Monday.

Another letter circulating urges Obama to test Rohani’s offer to deal. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) initiated the more conciliatory letter. There was no word yet as to how many signatures the letter, backed by J Street and Americans for Peace Now, had garnered by week’s end.

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday imposed the toughest sanctions ever on Iran, describing it as a critical step to cripple its disputed nuclear program.

The measure, known as the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act, was passed by a 400-20 vote in the House. It came just four days before the inauguration of Iranian President-elect Hassan Rohani.

The bill will go to the Senate for consideration in September, after the congressional summer recess. 

The U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. - Bloomberg