March 26, 2009
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We write in strong agreement with your firm position that Iran cannot be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon. We are distressed by the recent International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report that Iran has already stockpiled enough low enriched uranium to generate one nuclear weapon.
Clearly, the Iranian nuclear program must be dealt with on an urgent basis. We wish to share our views with you as your Administration reviews U.S. policy toward Iran. We believe that several principles will be vital to the success of any effort to engage the Government of Iran:
Engagement must be serious and credible, but it cannot be open-ended. Our goal should be to bring about Iran’s near-term suspension of uranium enrichment, and we should offer Iran meaningful incentives in order to achieve this goal. But we cannot allow Iran to use diplomatic discussions as a cover for continuing to work on its nuclear program. Iran must verifiably suspend its uranium enrichment program within at most a few months of the initiation of discussions.
We urge that the talks begin as soon as possible, so that we will have the earliest possible indication of whether they will succeed in halting Iran’s nuclear program. American action on this matter cannot be deferred. Waiting until after the Iranian presidential elections in June would give Tehran as much as six more months of unhindered enrichment and stockpiling.
Should the process of engagement not yield the desired results, we would urge you to immediately apply the tools at your disposal to increase economic pressure on the Iranians. Examples of powerful actions within your legal authority include:
Sanctioning the Central Bank of Iran
Sanctioning international banks that continue to do business with Iranian banks
Denying access to American ports to shipping companies whose ships call on Iranian ports
Sanctioning insurance companies that insure vessels calling on Iranian ports or that insure aircraft landing at Iranian airports
Sanctioning energy companies investing in Iran’s oil and gas sector
Beyond our own independent efforts, we must also line up our allies now to take significantly greater action if the process of engagement does not yield the desired results. In that case, our allies should accept that the urgency of the situation will require stern measures that will broadly affect Iran’s economy. They should be prepared to prohibit Iranian banks from operating on their territory and to
cease allowing Iran to conduct international financial transactions in Euros, pounds, and yen. Similarly,
they should stop the practice of providing export credits to their companies seeking business in Iran, and they should also bar their companies from continuing to deliver refined petroleum to Iran. In addition, they should cease selling Iran catalytic converters, which are critical to the functioning of Iran’s own refineries.
We must make Iran a matter of the highest priority in our relations with Russia and China.
In short, Mr. President, if we truly mean that Iran cannot be allowed to possess nuclear weapons, urgent action is required today. We must use the time available to us to begin engagement and to convince the Iranians of our seriousness of purpose. Otherwise, we will face far more difficult decisions in the future.
We look forward to the results of your policy review and to the early implementation of your policy of engagement. We stand ready to work with you to deal with the grave threat that Iran now poses to international stability and security.
The Honorable Steny H. Hoyer
The Honorable Howard L. Berman
The Honorable Ike Skelton
The Honorable Sylvestre Reyes
The Honorable Henry A. Waxman
The Honorable Gary L. Ackerman
The Honorable Robert Wexler
Letter to President Obama on U.S.-Iran policy (.PDF version)