Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with members of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Monday evening, thanking them for their support of bills sanctioning Iran for its nuclear program, and urging them to continue to pressure the Islamic Republic.
Netanyahu also informed the senators that he told US President Barack Obama in their meeting earlier in the day that it was the sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiating table.
The bipartisan group struck a positive tone after the meeting, agreeing with the prime minister that tough sanctions are crucial to any chance of diplomatic success, The Hill reported.
“Diplomacy without pressure is probably a futile exercise,” Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said. “He believes the sanctions are working, and I agree.”
“He just said basically that he believes in the importance that there be cost if Iran continues its nuclear program,” Ben Cardin (D-Md) said. “What we’re doing now he strongly thanked us for and said it’s having an impact and making it possible for us to negotiate.”
Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who heads the panel, said senators were united in hoping for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis, “but resolute that US national security objectives can never be compromised.”
“Our resolve to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear weapons capability remains unchanged and we will not hesitate from proceeding with further sanctions and other options to protect US interests and ensure regional security,” Menendez said in a statement after the meeting. “While we welcome Iran’s diplomatic engagement, it cannot be used to buy time, avoid sanctions, and continue the march toward nuclear weapons capability. Compliance with the UN Security Council resolutions will be the ultimate test of Iran’s intentions. We proceed with an open hand, and an open mind, but remain clear-eyed that Iran must align its actions with its rhetoric.”
Earlier in the day, Obama assured Netanyahu in a White House meeting that the US remains committed to preventing Iran from attaining nuclear weapons, is keeping the military option on the table, and will not reduce sanctions unless or until it is clear that Iran is taking verifiable actions to match its purported willingness for progress.
Netanyahu, for his part, told the president he appreciated the reiteration of that commitment to stop Iran, and advised that “sanctions should be strengthened” if Iran continues to move ahead toward the bomb. Iran, Netanyahu told Obama in their joint media appearance at the Oval Office, remains bent on the destruction of Israel.
The White House meeting marked the first time the two leaders had sat together since Obama’s visit to Israel in March. More relevantly, it marked their first personal contact since Obama and his Iranian counterpart, Rouhani, spoke by telephone over the weekend. Israel was informed prior to the conversation, but not consulted on the content, Israeli sources said.
After meeting Obama, Netanyahu attended a farewell ceremony for outgoing US Ambassador Michael Oren, at which he thanked Oren for his service. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, and Minority Leader Steny Hoyer all spoke at the event.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.