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Hundreds of Lawmakers Sign Letter Demanding Stronger Effort Against Iranian Nukes

Lawmakers from the House of Representatives on Thursday dispatched a letter to the Obama administration – signed by 354 members, comprising over 80 percent of the chamber – calling on Secretary of State John Kerry try harder in securing a deal with Iran that puts a nuclear bomb beyond Tehran’s reach:

“We believe that Iran’s desire or not to fully disclose all aspects of its nuclear program will serve as a fundamental test to ascertain the intention of Iran to sign a definitive agreement,” wrote 354 of the 432 current Congressmen, including House chairman John Boehner and many Democrats.

Reuters reported on the call, noting that it came a few weeks after the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog (IAEA) blasted the Iranians for not only stonewalling the organization on transparency issues, but for going further and actively destroying evidence of military atomic work. The IAEA had emphasized that the destruction “likely… further undermined the Agency’s ability to conduct effective verification” that Iran was not seeking to weaponize its nuclear program.

The House letter for its part declared that “[t]he only reason Tehran is blocking international investigators is that Tehran has something to hide.” The letter also came amid growing reports that Washington is currently seeking a “face-saving” deal that would allow the Iranians to disconnect “the plumbing” on some of their centrifuges each in exchange for broad sanctions relief, leaving the centrifuges fully intact.

The arrangement would contradict explicit assurances, given to lawmakers and journalists last winter by a range of White House officials, that any comprehensive deal would require Iranian scientists to dismantle their nuclear infrastructure. It would also – per a range of U.S. analysts who immediately and repeatedly criticized the scenario – leave the Iranians on the threshold of constructing a nuclear weapon.

An excerpt from physicist Jeremy Bernstein’s just-published book Nuclear Iran, posted Thursday on Tablet, “unpack[ed] what we know about the centrifuges at Natanz to take an informed guess at how likely Iran is to have enough weapons-grade uranium to make a nuclear warhead.”

Bernstein concluded among other things that, short of significant rollbacks in Tehran’s atomic infrastructure, “if the Iranians ever throw off the international constraints, they could produce in not many months enough fissile material to begin to manufacture nuclear weapons.”

[Photo: Jeffrey Zeldman / Flickr]