As Josh Rogin reports, almost half the members of the United States Senate joined together to write a letter to Barack Obama, urging the president to give up on Iranian talks if they fail yet again. The letter comes as American diplomats are getting set to meet with the Iranians in Moscow.
"It is past time for the Iranians to take the concrete steps that would reassure the world that their nuclear program is, as they claim, exclusively peaceful," forty-four senators, including both Democrats and Republicans, write to Obama. "Absent these steps, we must conclude that Tehran is using the talks as a cover to buy time as it continues to advance toward nuclear weapons capability. We know that you share our conviction that allowing Iran to gain this capability is unacceptable."
The senators wrote that the "absolute minimum" Iran must do immediately to justify further talks is to shut down the Fordo uranium enrichment facility near Qom, freeze all uranium enrichment above 5 percent, and ship all uranium enriched above 5 percent out of the country.
"We understand that this was the very proposal that the P5+1 advanced during the Baghdad meeting," the senators wrote, referring to the permanent five members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany. "Were Iran to agree to and verifiably implement these steps, this would demonstrate a level of commitment by Iran to the process and could justify continued discussions beyond the meeting in Moscow."
Few expect the Moscow meeting to yield unilateral steps by Iran of the nature sought by the senators. The letter also makes no mention of what confidence-building measures the United States or the international community could or should take in exchange for Iran's own steps.
The entire text of the letter can be read here.
Bill Kristol and Jamie Fly run through the last year's failures in respect to Iran in the latest issue of THE WEEKLY STANDARD:
The Obama administration has remained committed to procrastination and half-measures, to soothing and baffling expedients. But even friends of the administration now acknowledge the obvious: After all the diplomatic efforts and attempts at various forms of economic pressure, Iran is closer than ever to a nuclear weapons capability, with a new enrichment facility, thousands more centrifuges spinning, and enough enriched uranium to produce five nuclear weapons.
The last year has also witnessed a foiled Iranian plot to assassinate U.S. diplomats and their families in Azerbaijan, attempts to kill Israeli diplomats in the Republic of Georgia, Thailand, and India, and a plot to kill the Saudi ambassador (and American bystanders) at a Washington, D.C., restaurant. As we have shamefully dithered for more than a year, Iran has sent weapons, troops, and money to support its brutal ally Bashar al-Assad in Syria. All of this is, of course, in addition to years of Iranian complicity in the killing of U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This record of Iranian murder and mayhem is the reality of our failed Iran policy—a policy, to be fair, that began under the Bush administration. President Obama sometimes seems committed to ending the era of procrastination. He said in March that U.S. policy “is not going to be one of containment. . . . My policy is prevention of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons.” Since that tough talk, however, he and his top advisers have temporized—claiming that Iran is increasingly isolated and on the ropes, insisting that there is time for negotiations and sanctions to work because Iranian leaders have not yet made the decision to weaponize, arguing that “loose talk of war” only serves to strengthen Iran’s hand, and his administration hints that covert activities against Iran can effectively substitute for real action.
But Iran’s nuclear progress marches on.
Instead of running away from it, administration officials could be putting the military option front and center and ensuring it is seen as viable. And if the administration flinches, Congress could consider passing such an authorization anyway. While any commander in chief has the constitutional authority to take urgent action to protect Americans and their interests, such legislation would give weight to the president’s commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. It would strengthen the president’s hand. It would show Tehran that America’s policy of preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon is a credible one. Bipartisan support for such an authorization would remove the issue as much as possible from the turmoil of election year politics. And the authorization could also make clear that the United States would come to Israel’s aid in the event that it decides it needs to take action.
We don’t expect the Obama administration to request an Authorization for Use of Military Force. But Congress can act without such a request. By doing so, it would serve the nation’s interest, and, indeed, the administration’s, if the administration means what it says.
Whole thing here.