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Bipartisan group of US senators call on Biden to take tough stance against Iran

Lawmakers urge president to use ‘full force’ to achieve deal with Tehran that would limit its missile program, destabilizing activities and nuclear weapons program

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., questions State Department Under Secretary for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon, Jr., as he testifies at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 5, 2016. (AP/Andrew Harnik)
Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., questions State Department Under Secretary for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon, Jr., as he testifies at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 5, 2016. (AP/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A bipartisan group of US senators on Thursday called on President Joe Biden to aim for an expansive Iran deal that would limit Tehran’s missile program, regional activities and nuclear weapons program.

“Looking ahead, we strongly believe that you should use the full force of our diplomatic and economic tools in concert with our allies on the United Nations Security Council and in the region to reach an agreement that prevents Iran from ever acquiring nuclear weapons and meaningfully constrains its destabilizing activity throughout the Middle East and its ballistic missile program,” said the letter sent to Biden, spearheaded by Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, and South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham.

Menendez is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and Graham is its ranking member.

Biden has repeatedly said he wants to reenter the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which traded sanctions relief for restrictions on the Iranian nuclear program. The White House has said Iran needs to first return to compliance with the deal’s terms, while Tehran demands sanctions relief before it reenters the deal, putting the two sides at a stalemate.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican-South Carolina, speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, November 10, 2020. (Susan Walsh/AP)

Former president Donald Trump quit the deal in 2018 and reimposed sanctions on Iran, which walked away from the agreement by breaching limits on enriching uranium and other measures. A number of other world powers remain committed to the deal.

Biden wants to negotiate tougher conditions for an agreement with Iran, including by limiting its missile production and destabilizing activities in the region.

Republicans oppose reentering the deal, and Thursday’s letter, signed by 43 senators, did not address whether the 2015 deal should be revived in any way, or jettisoned for a new agreement.

The letter also pointed to widening differences between the parties when it comes to Iran policy — just 14 of the signatories are Democrats. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a major pro-Israel lobby broup, backed the letter.

The letter also called on Biden to consult with allies, including Israel, in considering Iran policy, which the White House previously said it will do.

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