Last week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told NBC that "under no circumstances would we seek any weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, nor will we ever." Iran's atomic program, he said, is a peaceful one.
While the White House is warming to future talks with the Iranian government about its nuclear program, a pair of senators remain skeptical. John McCain, R-Ariz, and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., wrote in a joint letter to President Obama on Monday that "the Iranians are only expressing openness to diplomacy because they have been compelled by the crippling consequences of the sanctions."
In their letter, the lawmakers urge the president, who will address the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, to "make it clear that the United States will not scale back sanctions unless accompanied by real, meaningful action by the Iranian regime."
The use of economic sanctions to pressure the Middle Eastern country to halt its nuclear program is working, they say, but the U.S. needs to keep the pressure on.
However, McCain and Schumer, who have recently struck up an unlikely friendship, sound pretty worried that the president won't heed their entreaty. They fear that, thanks to Tehran's willingness to negotiate, the White House may consider easing off on some sanctions in the name of diplomacy. And rumors about a possible meeting between Obama and Rouhani probably didn't help. The letter's most urgent point appears to remind the president of his country's own foreign policy: "It must be reemphasized that it is the policy of the United States that it will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear-weapons capability."
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