US lawmakers unenthused by drive for rapprochment with Iran
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US lawmakers unenthused by drive for rapprochment with Iran

Negotiations with Iranians over nuclear program could be complicated without support from Congress

Iran's President Hasan Rouhani speaks to the UN General Assembly, September 24 (photo credit: UN screenshot)
Iran's President Hasan Rouhani speaks to the UN General Assembly, September 24 (photo credit: UN screenshot)

Despite a push by Washington to open a direct diplomatic channel with Iran, US lawmakers on Tuesday expressed skepticism Tuesday over a thaw in ties with Tehran.

“We support the willingness of the Obama Administration to test the credibility of the Iranian regime’s diplomatic overtures,” Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte said in a statement. “However, we are deeply skeptical about the real motivations behind Iran’s charm offensive. We need to approach the current diplomatic initiative with eyes wide open, and we must not allow Iran to use negotiations as a tool of delay and deception. A real negotiation does not mean that the diplomats talk while the Iranians enrich.”

Meanwhile senior Democratic Senators Charles Schumer and Robert Menendez also encouraged the president to remain tough on Iran, according to Reuters.

“While I welcome the statement by President Rouhani that Iran is seeking a peaceful and diplomatic path, I was disappointed by the overwhelmingly antagonistic rhetoric that characterized his remarks,” Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said.

US President Barack Obama speaks during his address to the 68th Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday Sept. 24, 2013. (photo credit:AP/Andrew Burton)
US President Barack Obama speaks during his address to the 68th Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday Sept. 24, 2013. (photo credit:AP/Andrew Burton)

In a speech to the UN General Assembly Tuesday, Rouhani insisted that Iran does not pose a danger to the Middle East or the world and said he was ready to negotiate with the US “to manage our differences.”

Earlier in the day, President Barack Obama said he was determined to test his Iranian counterparts overtures, but that Iran would have to match its words with actions.

“Conciliatory words will have to be matched by actions that are transparent and verifiable,” he told the General Assembly.

The US and Iran have been at odds over Iran’s nuclear program, which the US and other Western powers believe is for producing nuclear weapons and the Iranians contend is for peaceful purposes. In an attempt to pressure Iran to dismantle its nuclear program, the US has imposed a series of economic sanctions on Iran that have crippled its economy and refused direct negotiations until now.

In the event negotiations were to go well, Obama would have the authority to temporarily suspend the sanctions for two terms of 120 days, but that would most likely put him at odds with US lawmakers who believe that the sanctions will eventually force Iran to dismantle its nuclear program.

“We don’t need words from Rouhani; we need real action from Tehran,” Representative Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement. “The regime’s commitment to negotiations shouldn’t be measured by rhetoric, but by the nuclear activities it ceases. Through crippling economic sanctions we can continue to increase the pressure on the regime, targeting its ability to pursue a nuclear weapons capability.”

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