Senators Send Obama a Wish List for Iran Nuke Deal

The bipartisan group points out that if the administration wants a long-term removal of sanctions, it will likely need help from Congress.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif shakes hands with Secretary of State John Kerry after a statement on a landmark deal with Iran halting parts of its nuclear program Nov. 24, 2013 in Geneva.
National Journal
Jordain Carney
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Jordain Carney
March 18, 2014, 10:58 a.m.

As dip­lo­mats dis­cuss a long-term agree­ment on Ir­an’s nuc­le­ar pro­gram, a ma­jor­ity of sen­at­ors Tues­day in­creased pres­sure on Pres­id­ent Obama to make sure he in­cludes key pro­vi­sions.

In a let­ter to the pres­id­ent, 83 sen­at­ors out­lined “core prin­ciples” they be­lieve must be in a fi­nal agree­ment. Ne­go­ti­ations among Rus­sia, China, Ger­many, France, the United King­dom, the United States, and Ir­an are on­go­ing in Vi­enna.

At the top of their list is an as­ser­tion that the fi­nal agree­ment must un­der­line that Ir­an has no right to urani­um en­rich­ment un­der the Nuc­le­ar Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty. It’s a long-con­tested sub­ject, and an idea that Ir­a­ni­an of­fi­cials have re­jec­ted.

Sen­at­ors are press­ing for a hand­ful of oth­er pro­vi­sions as part of a long-term deal, in­clud­ing:

  • A dis­mant­ling of Ir­an’s nuc­le­ar-weapons pro­gram.

  • The shut­ter­ing of Ir­an’s heavy-wa­ter re­act­or at Arak, ex­plan­a­tions on “ques­tion­able activ­it­ies” at oth­er re­act­ors, and stress­ing that Ir­an “has no reas­on” to have an un­der­ground en­rich­ment fa­cil­ity.

  • The tack­ling of pre­vi­ous con­cerns raised by the United Na­tion’s Se­cur­ity Coun­cil, in­clud­ing ques­tions about wheth­er the pro­gram has a mil­it­ary as­pect. In­ter­na­tion­al Atom­ic En­ergy Agency of­fi­cials have ex­pressed hope that they can get to the bot­tom of a long-stand­ing in­vest­ig­a­tion over any mil­it­ary-re­lated pro­grams.

  • Ir­an must al­low “long-term and in­trus­ive in­spec­tion and veri­fic­a­tion” at its sites to make sure it can­not try to get or build a nuc­le­ar weapon.

And the sen­at­ors are giv­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion a reas­on to pay at­ten­tion to its re­quest: sanc­tions. They note that if the pres­id­ent wants a long-term roll­back of sanc­tions “bey­ond ex­ist­ing waiver au­thor­ity” as part of an “ac­cept­able” fi­nal agree­ment on Ir­an’s nuc­le­ar pro­gram, it will have to work with Con­gress

Many of the sen­at­ors have backed long-stalled le­gis­la­tion to in­crease sanc­tions against Ir­an if it vi­ol­ates the in­ter­im agree­ment reached last year or walks away from talks over a long-term deal. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and Ir­a­ni­an of­fi­cials have stressed that any sanc­tions le­gis­la­tion would kill dip­lo­mat­ic pro­gress.

But the bi­par­tis­an group con­tends “that the pres­sure from eco­nom­ic sanc­tions brought Ir­an to the table, and that it must con­tin­ue un­til Ir­an aban­dons its ef­forts to build a nuc­le­ar weapon.”

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