WASHINGTON – AIPAC is calling on members of the Senate to co-sign a letter to US President Barack Obama laying out strict standards for a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran that the lobby would find acceptable.
The letter was released with AIPAC ’s legislative agenda for the year on Sunday, the first day of its annual policy conference in Washington.
“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,” the letter reads.
The letter is signed by Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), as well as Senators Chuck Schumer (D-New York), Christopher Coons (D-Delaware), Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) and Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire). The bipartisan group says it hopes diplomatic efforts succeed – but also calls for the “rapid and dramatic” expansion of sanctions if they do not.
“We believe that Iran has no inherent right to enrichment under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,” the letter reads. “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.”
The letter also includes the closure of Fordow, Arak and Parchin – key facilities in Iran’s nuclear program – in the list of demands.
The Obama administration has entered negotiations with a similar list, though senior officials are not demanding the full dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. Officials say the White House is willing to tolerate a small, highly regulated Iranian nuclear program that is guaranteed peaceful through strict verification and oversight measures.
The language of AIPAC ’s letter does not explicitly rule out these terms – it calls on Iran’s nuclear “weapons” program to be fully dismantled, not necessarily all of its nuclear work. But it suggests that such an agreement would be, at least, controversial.
“This letter lays down an important bipartisan marker on the end game with Iran,” one senior Senate aide said.
The letter softens AIPAC ’s approach to Iran during a key negotiations period over its nuclear work. For months, AIPAC has pushed for a bill that would trigger new sanctions tools against Iran should talks fail to produce a final agreement to the long-standing nuclear crisis.
An interim agreement took effect last fall that effectively froze the program in exchange for modest sanctions relief. That agreement, formally known as the Joint Plan of Action, grants world powers six months to negotiate a final deal with Iran.
While AIPAC says publicly that it will continue to build support for the trigger bill, it has, in practice, given up hope on a swift vote. Obama threatened to veto the measure in January, warning its passage would undermine negotiations.
Since then, Democratic support for a vote during the negotiations period has waned.
The bill is “not off the table,” the Senate aide said, “and key sponsors will continue to press for its passage.”