The White House received a letter on Monday evening signed by 29 former US
policymakers urging President Barack Obama to negotiate with Iranian president-elect Hassan Rouhani.
The letter was organized by the National
Iranian American Council, sources told The Jerusalem Post. No former or current
senior officials endorsed it.
AFP, which first reported on the letter,
said it called on Obama to take advantage of a window of opportunity to settle
the Iranian nuclear dispute through diplomatic means.
Meanwhile, a UN
Security Council committee is split over whether Iran’s missile tests last year
violated UN sanctions, Australia’s UN envoy said on Monday.
rules out any expansion of sanctions against Tehran over the tests for the time
being, UN envoys said on condition of anonymity.
said in the letter to Obama: “We strongly encourage your administration to seize
the moment to pursue new multilateral and bilateral negotiations with Iran once
Rouhani takes office and to avoid any provocative action that could narrow the
window of opportunity for a more moderate policy out of Tehran,” according to
The former US officials said Rouhani’s election “presents a major
potential opportunity,” and called on the US administration to make concessions
on sanctions against the Iranian regime once Rouhani is inaugurated on August
The National Iranian American Council’s most recent press release, on
June 15, addressed the election of Rouhani and the skepticism that followed on
“The reaction of the United States and the West could make
or break Rouhani and the reformists’ ability to push for change in Iran,” the
group said. “Particularly, if the Obama administration and Congress persist in
amplifying economic sanctions on Iran, it could undermine prospects of a deal
before Rouhani is even inaugurated.”
Diplomats said it was Russia, backed
by China, that refused to declare Tehran’s missile launches a violation of the
UN restrictions, as a UN Panel of Experts on Iran said was the case.
rift on the Iran sanctions committee, which consists of all 15 Security Council
members, highlights the difficulties Western powers face in persuading Russia
and China to join them in keeping up the pressure on Tehran to halt banned
nuclear and missile work.
Iran says the UN sanctions against it are
illegal and refuses to comply with them.
As long as the sanctions
committee remains divided, it will be difficult for the Security Council to add
names of any Iranian individuals or entities linked to the missile tests,
Security Council diplomats said on condition of anonymity.
Ambassador Gary Quinlan, chairman of the Iran sanctions committee, told the
council that “a number of committee members expressed the view... that the
launches constituted a clear violation of [UN sanctions] and that therefore all
member states should redouble their efforts to implement ballistic
missile-related sanctions on Iran.
“At this stage some committee members
cannot share this view,” he added in his latest three-month report to the
The tests involved the launch of Iranian Shahab missiles in July
2012 during the Great Prophet 7 military exercises.
launches of the Shahab 1 and 3, Zelzal, Fateh-110 and Tondar missiles, as well
as an anti-ship ballistic missile, the Khalij Fars,” the Iran Panel of Experts
said in its May report to the Iran sanctions committee.
The panel said
those exercises were conducted by the Aerospace Force of the Islamic
Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Russia, diplomats said, led the dissenters in
rejecting the view that the tests were a clear violation of UN
A Russian delegate explained Moscow’s position to the Security
Council, saying “hasty conclusions not based on facts must be avoided.”
Chinese delegate reiterated Beijing’s stance: “We are not in favor of increased
new pressure or new sanctions against Iran.”
US Ambassador Rosemary
DiCarlo told reporters, “We’re disappointed that the [Iran sanctions] committee
was unable in this case to state the obvious.”
“There is nothing
ambiguous about the ban imposed by the Security Council on
such... missile launches,” she said.
“Most of the Security Council
members agree with us on this issue.”
Quinlan’s report also referred to
arms embargo violations.
Western powers accuse Iran of supplying arms to
Syrian President Bashar Assad and Islamist groups such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah,
which has been fighting alongside Assad’s troops.
members stated that the evidence presented in the report was sufficient to
assert that Iran was in violation of its obligations, illustrating a pattern of
sanctions evasion through arms smuggling in the Middle East,” his report
“Other committee members stated that the lack of stronger evidence
as to the provenance of the arms, such as documentation, justified the lack of a
definitive conclusion,” his report added.
Russia and China were the
“other committee members” who opposed finding Tehran in clear violation of the
UN ban on Iranian arms exports, council diplomats said.Reuters contributed to this report.
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