TEHRAN – Capitol Hill must have an outsize role to play in Iran no matter the result of ongoing nuclear talks, a bipartisan group of six senators said in a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama released on Sunday by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Politico reported.
Congress will need “to rapidly and dramatically expand sanctions” against Iran if global negotiations to scale back the country’s nuclear program fail, the senators said. And if Iran does agree to a permanent deal, the lawmakers said it will be up to them to offer long-term economic relief to Iran.
“We need to work together now to prepare for either eventuality,” the senators said. “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 … program will lead to much more dramatic sanctions, including further limitations on Iran’s exports of crude oil and petroleum products.”
The letter is being led by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.).
“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 … ambitions,” the senators said in the letter.
The missive’s backing by Democrats like No. 3 Senate Democrat Schumer and Foreign Relations Chairman Menendez is notable given the fresh partisan divide on Iran. This week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) staved off several GOP attempts to force a vote on new sanctions, which Obama believes would ruin ongoing talks with Iran.
Republicans are hoping this week that AIPAC presses Democrats to endorse a swift vote on sanctions legislation. But there is no sign of any agreement yet.
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