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House, Senate Leaders Call for Upping Pressure Against Iran

In the aftermath of a speech by Iranian president Hassan Rouhani that was panned by journalists and analysts for falling short of expectations built up by the revolutionary-era cleric’s public writings, Democratic Senator Robert Menendez issued a statement reemphasizing a sentiment that has become increasingly heard from lawmakers across the House and Senate and from both political parties. The Jerusalem Post quoted his response:

In a statement released following Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s speech at the UN General Assembly, Menendez said that while he welcomes Rouhani’s statement urging for a peaceful and diplomatic path on the issue of Iran’s nuclear program, “words must be followed by action in the form of a credible and verifiable agreement to terminate Iran’s nuclear weapons program.”

Sens. Robert Menendez and Lindsey Graham had earlier warned that Iranian negotiators have in the past used diplomatic talks “as a subterfuge for progress on its clandestine nuclear program.”They called on Iran to terminate its nuclear weapons program, and urged President Barack Obama to demand verifiable action from Tehran. Last month 76 Senators signed a letter demanding that the President take a harder line against Iran’s nuclear program.

On the House side, congressman Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee earlier in the day became the latest lawmaker to express skepticism regarding the prospect of early sanctions relief for Iran in the absence of verifiable concessions. Royce noted that he has introduced bipartisan legislation with his counterpart Rep. Eliot Engel calling for more sanctions against the Islamic republic in the absence of such assurances:

The U.S. needs a diplomatic path “in which Iran agrees to give up its nuclear program, give up its enrichment, give up its weapons-making capability,” said Royce, adding that the effects of tough sanctions are the only reason Iran is considering diplomatic talks… “[Negotiations have] been [Rouhani’s] past policy. What we need to do is make it very clear that we’re wise to that. We know he’s playing the same playbook that North Korea used to get nuclear weapons, to get out from under the sanctions,” said Royce.

Engel echoed the point, telling the Daily Beast that sanctions relief would require that Iran take “tangible” steps toward dismantling its nuclear program. Those would include halting Tehran’s installation of uranium-enriching centrifuges and its development of its plutonium-related heavy water activity.

[Photo: Nima1024 / Wiki Commons]