UANI Letter to President Obama and Congressional Leaders Requests Legislative Debate on the Principles of Iran Nuclear Negotiations


November 1, 2013 

Contact: Nathan Carleton, [email protected] 

Phone: (212) 554-3296


UANI Letter to President Obama and Congressional Leaders Requests Legislative Debate on the Principles of Iran Nuclear Negotiations

Samore, Wallace, Lieberman, Townsend: "[We] Request That Congress Takes Up Debate on the Essential Principles that Must Underpin any Nuclear Agreement with Iran and Closely Consult with the President."


New York, NY - Today, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) released a letter sent to President Obama and Congressional leaders requesting that the U.S. Congress take up debate on the principles that ought to underpin a nuclear agreement with Iran.


UANI's letter lays out five principles that should guide the U.S. position in nuclear negotiations.


UANI CEO, Ambassador Mark D. Wallace, UANI President, Dr. Gary Samore, former U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman, and former U.S. Homeland Security Advisor Frances Townsend note in the letter that "[j]ust recently, when confronted with the use of chemical weapons in Syria, the Congress and White House agreed to engage in a vigorous public debate to ensure that the United States spoke with a united voice."


In the letter, sent to: President Obama; Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Menendez and Ranking Member Corker; and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Royce and Ranking Member Engel, Ambassador Wallace, Dr. Samore, Senator Lieberman, and Ms. Townsend write:


            Since the election of President Rouhani, there has been much public discussion and renewed activity related to a potential negotiated agreement regarding Iran's nuclear program. That discussion and activity has launched debate, speculation and concern over what should be the appropriate terms of such an agreement.


Central to that discussion have been two issues: 1) Whether or not Iran should be permitted to enrich nuclear material or possess a heavy water research reactor as part of any agreement; and 2) Whether sanctions should be eased in the interim - short of a comprehensive nuclear agreement.


By any measure, these questions are some of the most consequential foreign policy issues of our time. Just recently, when confronted with the use of chemical weapons in Syria, the Congress and White House agreed to engage in a vigorous public debate to ensure that the United States spoke with a united voice. Given the historic consequence of a potential rapprochement with Iran and the terms of a potential nuclear agreement, it is vitally important that the U.S. once again speaks with a united voice. Moreover, Congress plays an active and vital role in imposing sanctions on Iran and Congress would be central to any sanctions relief. 


We therefore respectfully request that Congress takes up debate on the essential principles that must underpin any nuclear agreement with Iran and closely consult with the President. ... As a starting point of such debate, we respectfully propose five principles to guide the U.S. position in the P5+1 nuclear negotiation. They are as follows:


1.      The objective of a nuclear agreement is to prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons by limiting Iran's ability to produce fissile material under strong international inspections. A comprehensive agreement should require Iran to comply with UN Security Council Resolutions 1696 and 1737, requiring Iran to suspend enrichment and reprocessing-related activities until "confidence is restored in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program..." The period of confidence-building is one that we believe must last several years. Iran must also fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to resolve questions about its nuclear activities. 


2.      The sanctions framework has been carefully assembled over many years, and no sanctions rollback should result until Iran agrees to a comprehensive nuclear agreement with measurable milestones.


3.      A comprehensive nuclear agreement is by far the preferred outcome. If prior to a final agreement on a comprehensive nuclear accord the U.S., its allies and Iran agree to an interim agreement that substantially limits Iran's current nuclear program, the U.S. and its allies may consider specific and individual transactional waivers of sanctioned/prohibited activity. Any such interim agreement should include a time limit on the final negotiation of a comprehensive agreement and automatic re-imposition of sanctions on such transactions if one is not reached within that time.


4.      Iran's new President should have one hundred days from his election to take substantial and concrete actions to resolve concerns about Iran's nuclear program. In the absence of such action, following November 11, 2013, the U.S. and its allies should move to impose new sanctions, to be implemented after January 1, 2014. Subsequently, Iran should face ever increasing and new sanctions as diplomacy continues.


5.      If Iran complies with its international obligations and restores confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear program, including the suspension of its enrichment and reprocessing-related activities for a substantial period (i.e. several years), the U.S. and its allies can consider the scale and scope of its nuclear program, including whether Iran is allowed to resume limited enrichment for peaceful purposes.


            The sanctions framework, while working, is fragile and interdependent. If current sanctions law is even partially unwound on an interim basis, it will have a far-reaching and undesirable backwardation effect on the overall sanctions regime. Given the historic practice of Iran extending negotiations to buy time and allow further nuclear development, Iran should have a "time-limited" opportunity to reach a nuclear accord without facing additional sanctions, even as diplomatic efforts continue.


Sanctions have had the desired effect and Iran must understand that absent a comprehensive nuclear agreement, it will face new and more robust sanctions. As to interim progress in the negotiations - and similar to the Presidential waiver program on Iran oil sales to certain countries - the U.S. may consider specific and individual transaction waivers of prohibited activity. As with the Presidential oil sales waivers, the transactional waivers should be: limited in nature; not continue indefinitely; require specific renewal; and serve to definitively advance negotiations that culminate in a comprehensive agreement. Any such waivers must be contingent on a substantial and measurable pullback from Iran's current nuclear enrichment programs.   


Regarding enrichment, while there may be debate as to whether to ultimately allow Iran to enrich and the limited scope of such allowable enrichment, Iran must demonstrate responsible cooperation with UN inspections over a period of several years before any final decision on allowing Iranian nuclear enrichment is agreed. While some of us believe that Iran should never be permitted to enrich, others are open to Iran's rigorously limited enrichment on a scale and scope that would prohibit Iran's breakout capacity. ...


Click here to read the full text of the letter.