by Jim Lobe
With the snow in Washington and Russian moves in Crimea diverting all national news attention away from AIPAC’s ongoing policy conference, I understand House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer are circulating their own AIPAC-approved letter among colleagues for signature. The tone seems a bit more congenial than the Senate version, but the House letter appears to suffer from some of the same ambiguities and uncertainties, notably its insistence that “enrichment-related… facilities” be dismantled as a condition for any deal — a non-starter if interpreted literally — as well as its explicit reference to Iran’s “nuclear weapons ambitions,” which makes an assumption that is not yet supported by the U.S. intelligence community.
It also raises other issues, such as alleged terrorism, and destabilization of Iran’s neighbors, human rights, and the fate of U.S. citizens believed to be detained in or by Iran, but does not relate them specifically to the nuclear negotiations. Also on the plus side is that it suggests there will be no House move to enact prospective automatic sanctions as in the Kirk-Menendez bill, S. 1881, by noting that if Iran violates the Joint Plant of Action or if no agreement is reached, Congress would have to “act swiftly to consider additional sanctions…”
On the other hand, unlike the Senate version, this one concludes by implicitly raising the military option by insisting that “we must keep all options on the table to prevent this dangerous regime from acquiring nuclear weapons.” Such language naturally raises hackles and strengthens hardliners in Tehran.
Here’s the draft in the event you want to weigh in with your congressperson.
Dear Mr. President:
As your partner in developing the broad-based sanctions that – in bringing Iran to the negotiating table – have played an essential role in your two-track approach to encourage Iran to give up its nuclear weapons program, we support your diplomatic effort to test Iran’s willingness to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions and satisfactorily resolve all critical issues concerning its nuclear program.
Iran’s history of delay, deception, and dissembling on its nuclear program raises serious concerns that Iran will use prolonged negotiations as a tool to secure an economic lifeline while it continues to make progress towards a nuclear weapon. Iran’s leaders must understand that further sanctions relief will require Tehran to abandon its pursuit of a nuclear weapon and fully disclose its nuclear activities.
We are hopeful a permanent diplomatic agreement will require dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear weapons-related infrastructure, including enrichment-, heavy water-, and reprocessing-related facilities, such that Iran will not be able to develop, build, or acquire a nuclear weapon. We do not seek to deny Iran a peaceful nuclear energy program, but we are gravely concerned that Iran’s industrial-scale uranium enrichment capability and heavy water reactor being built at Arak could be used for the development of nuclear weapons.
Because we believe any agreement should include stringent transparency measures to guarantee that Iran cannot develop an undetectable nuclear weapons breakout capability, Tehran must fully and verifiably implement its Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, ratify and implement the Additional Protocol, answer pending IAEA questions, and comply with the transparency measures requested by the Director General of the IAEA, as well as with any additional verification and monitoring measures necessary to ensure Iran is abiding by the terms of any agreement. Such measures should include an agreement granting the IAEA necessary access to inspect all suspect sites, including military facilities, and providing an unfettered ability to interview Iranian scientists and personnel associated with Iran’s nuclear program.
As negotiations progress, we expect your administration will continue to keep Congress regularly apprised of the details. And, because any long-term sanctions relief will require Congressional action, we urge you to consult closely with us so that we can determine the parameters of such relief in the event an agreement is reached, or, if no agreement is reached or Iran violates the interim agreement, so that we can act swiftly to consider additional sanctions and steps necessary to change Iran’s calculation.
Finally, although the P5+1 process is focused on Iran’s nuclear program, we remain deeply concerned by Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism, its horrendous human rights record, its efforts to destabilize its neighbors, its pursuit of intercontinental ballistic missiles, and its threats against our ally, Israel, as well as the fates of American citizens detained by Iran. We want to work with you to address these concerns as part of a broader strategy of dealing with Iran.
We are hopeful your two-track strategy will convince Iran to change course and abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons. None of us desires military conflict, but as you yourself have acknowledged, we must keep all options on the table to prevent this dangerous regime from acquiring nuclear weapons.