The Cable

Senators to Obama: No, Iran does not have the right to enrich uranium

The P5+1 talks in Geneva have only just begun, but a bipartisan group of senators is already calling on the Obama administration to resist Iranian attempts at stalling, keep ratcheting up pressure as talks go on, and tell Iran they don’t have the right to enrich uranium for the foreseeable future.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week in Bahrain that Iran does have the right to a domestic uranium enrichment program for civilian purposes, if and when they prove to the international community they can do so transparently and responsibly.

But in a letter (PDF) to President Barack Obama to be delivered on Monday -- but obtained in advance by The Cable -- Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Jon Kyl (R-AZ),  Kirstin Gillibrand (D-NY), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Mark Kirk (R-IL) said that the administration should make clear to Iran that domestic enrichment is not an option.

“We believe that it is critical that the United States and our partners make clear that, given the government of Iran’s pattern of deception and non-cooperation, its government cannot be permitted to maintain any enrichment or reprocessing activities on its territory for the foreseeable future,” the senators wrote. “We would strongly oppose any proposal for a diplomatic endgame in which Iran is permitted to continue these activities in any form.”

The senators also told Obama they want the administration to make clear to Iran that sanctions and other pressures will increase during the negotiations. They also wrote that the administration should not be fooled into accepting “confidence building measures” as substitutes for real negotiations.

Overall, the letter sets down a marker to Obama to remind him that, as the administration heads down the engagement track with Iran once again, Congress will be watching and waiting to criticize any perceived weakness or concession. The negotiations may be taking place in Geneva, but the Obama team has to always keep one eye on Capitol Hill.

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