Chairman Royce, Ranking Member Engel Caution President Obama on Iran Negotiations

Nov 19, 2013

Washington, D.C. – As another round of negotiations on Iran’s nuclear weapons program begins, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ranking Member of the Committee, wrote a letter to President Obama expressing their strong concern regarding the interim agreement under negotiation with Iran.

Royce and Engel are the authors of H.R. 850, the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act, which increases pressure on the Iranian regime amid its continued attempt to acquire a nuclear weapons capability.  Royce and Engel have advocated for the Senate to take up and pass the legislation, which passed the House in July with overwhelming support.

Royce and Engel wrote to the President: “We are troubled by press reports indicating that the proposed interim agreement discussed at the recent P5+1 meetings with Iran in Geneva may not do enough to prevent Iran from continuing to make progress on developing a nuclear weapons capability, nor does it contain all the elements which we believe must be part of any interim deal.”

The letter concludes: “We must sustain economic pressure and consequent political pressure on the Iranian regime if we hope to reach a final agreement in which Iran has verifiably dismantled its nuclear program.  We look forward to working with you in supporting your diplomatic efforts and buttressing them with tough pressure on Iran.  We believe this offers the best path to eliminate peacefully the Iranian nuclear threat.” 

A signed copy of the letter to the President is available HERE.

Text of the letter follows:

November 19, 2013

The President
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

As the United States and its P5+1 partners prepare to engage in the next round of nuclear diplomacy, we are writing to express our great concern regarding the scope and content of the interim agreement under negotiation with Iran.

As you have repeatedly stated, Iran’s nuclear weapons program is a fundamental threat to the national security of the United States and our allies.  As a result, our policy must be based on two premises:

First, the United States must prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.  And second, Iran does not have an inherent right to enrichment and reprocessing under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).  This was clearly articulated as your Administration’s position by Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who stated in testimony last month that “we do not believe there is an inherent right by anyone to enrichment.”  We strongly believe that any agreement should not implicitly or explicitly recognize an inherent right by Iran to enrich uranium. 

We are troubled by press reports indicating that the proposed interim agreement discussed at the recent P5+1 meetings with Iran in Geneva may not do enough to prevent Iran from continuing to make progress on developing a nuclear weapons capability, nor does it contain all the elements which we believe must be part of any interim deal. In particular we are concerned about reports that: 

·         Iran will not be required to “suspend enrichment and reprocessing activities, including research and development,” as required by United Nations Security Council resolutions 1696, 1737, 1747, 1803, 1835, and 1929.  The UN Security Council-mandated suspension in enrichment and reprocessing sends a stern message to Iran that its nuclear program is rejected by the international community.  

·         Iran will not be required to halt the production and installation of additional centrifuges.  Continued production and installation of centrifuges, particularly the more advanced variant, will allow Iran to improve its capacity to produce highly enriched uranium.  

·         Iran will not be required to transfer to another country under IAEA supervision all uranium enriched to a level of 20 percent or higher.  The failure to ship out or render unusable this material would allow Iran to more quickly attain a dangerous breakout capacity.     

·         Iran will not be required to halt all construction and other activities at the Arak heavy water facility and reactor, which is intended to produce weapons-grade plutonium.  If Iran gets closer to completing and fueling the Arak reactor, it will reach a point of no return in its ability to produce weapons-grade plutonium.     

·         The P5+1 has offered significant sanctions relief to Iran, which will ease pressure on the regime in Tehran.

We believe very strongly that Iran must come into full compliance with its International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards obligations, including providing a full accounting of all nuclear-related sites, both disclosed and undisclosed, and all information requested by the IAEA concerning research and work on a nuclear explosive device and its means of delivery.   

We also believe that Iran must ratify and verifiably implement all provisions of the Additional Protocol, and guarantee IAEA inspectors unrestricted access to all of its nuclear sites.  Iran has refused to allow inspectors access to the facility at Parchin, where research and development of a nuclear explosive device is suspected to have occurred.  Iran’s decades of non-compliance with the IAEA and repeated use of covert facilities to hide its nuclear activities make it essential that it submit to the highest standard of international inspections and be forthcoming on its past activities.  

Mr. President, the United States cannot allow Iran to continue to advance toward a nuclear weapons capability while at the same time providing relief from the sanctions pressure we worked so hard to build, and the Administration has worked to enforce.  It was sanctions and economic pressure that brought Iran to the table.  We believe Congress has an important role to play in ensuring that effective pressure is brought to bear on Iran to keep its nuclear program from advancing.  We must sustain economic pressure and consequent political pressure on the Iranian regime if we hope to reach a final agreement in which Iran has verifiably dismantled its nuclear program.

We look forward to working with you in supporting your diplomatic efforts and buttressing them with tough pressure on Iran.  We believe this offers the best path to eliminate peacefully the Iranian nuclear threat.