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Overwhelming Senate Support for Strong Letter on Iran, Amid Resurgent Iranian Oil Exports

Eighty-three senators—split almost evenly between Democrats and Republicans—sent a joint letter [1] to President Obama today calling for increased pressure on Iran and the dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear program. Among other things, the letter called for the “rapid and dramatic” expansion of sanctions if talks with Iran fail:

Most importantly, Iran must clearly understand the consequences of failing to reach an acceptable final agreement. We must signal unequivocally to Iran that rejecting negotiations and continuing its nuclear weapon program will lead to much more dramatic sanctions, including further limitations on Iran’s exports of crude oil and petroleum products.

The letter states that Iran has no inherent right to nuclear enrichment, and demands the closure of the nuclear facilities in Fordow, Arak and Parchin.  The letter, which comes alongside a similar one [2] making its way through the House, pushes the Obama administration both on what the contours of an acceptable deal with the Islamic Republic must look like – the House letter emphasizes that “a permanent diplomatic agreement will require dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear weapons-related infrastructure, including enrichment-, heavy water-, and reprocessing-related facilities” – and on the need for what Senators describe as “an outsize[d] role” for Congress. The latter position reflects the position of lopsided majorities [2] of American voters.

The letter comes amid still-rising levels of Iranian oil exports, which White House officials late last week described themselves as “comfortable” with. The Wall Street Journal noted that such expressions of confidence came despite figures [3] “showing that over the last two months the country’s oil sales have reached their highest level in a year.”

If Iran continues to produce at its current levels, the additional sales would translate to about $6.2 billion in extra revenue for Tehran this year. Western sanction relief—including the resumption of some petrochemical exports, the removal of frozen assets and other trade—is expected to free up about $4.2 billion for Tehran.

Bloomberg Businessweek also reported on the data, calculating that [4] “the shipments were the highest since December 2012, according to the agency’s data compiled by Bloomberg.” Members of Congress were clearly less sanguine than the administration.

[Photo: Ottojula / Wiki Commons [5]]