The Cable

44 Senators urge Obama to cut off Iran negotiations unless progress made

Nearly half the Senate told President Barack Obama today that unless Iran gives three specific concessions at this weekend's talks with world powers in Moscow, he should abandon the ongoing negotiations over the country's nuclear program.

"It is past time for the Iranians to take the concrete steps that would reassure the world that their nuclear program is, as they claim, exclusively peaceful," wrote 44 senators in a Friday bipartisan letter organized by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Roy Blunt (R-MO). "Absent these steps, we must conclude that Tehran is using the talks as a cover to buy time as it continues to advance toward nuclear weapons capability. We know that you share our conviction that allowing Iran to gain this capability is unacceptable."

The senators wrote that the "absolute minimum" Iran must do immediately to justify further talks is to shut down the Fordo uranium enrichment facility near Qom, freeze all uranium enrichment above 5 percent, and ship all uranium enriched above 5 percent out of the country.

"We understand that this was the very proposal that the P5+1 advanced during the Baghdad meeting," the senators wrote, referring to the permanent five members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany. "Were Iran to agree to and verifiably implement these steps, this would demonstrate a level of commitment by Iran to the process and could justify continued discussions beyond the meeting in Moscow."

Few expect the Moscow meeting to yield unilateral steps by Iran of the nature sought by the senators. The letter also makes no mention of what confidence-building measures the United States or the international community could or should take in exchange for Iran's own steps.

On June 11, the P5+1 held a meeting in Strasbourg at the political directors' level to prepare for the upcoming Moscow talks.

The senators urge the president not to ease or delay the embargo, writing that only when the Iranian government believes the sanctions are to be "unremitting and crippling" will a diplomatic breakthrough will be possible.

"On the other hand, if the sessions in Moscow produce no substantive agreement, we urge you to reevaluate the utility of further talks at this time and instead focus on significantly increasing the pressure on the Iranian government through sanctions and making clear that a credible military option exists," they wrote.  "As you have rightly noted, ‘the window for diplomacy is closing.'  Iran's leaders must realize that you mean precisely that."

The letter is also signed by Charles Schumer (D-NY), Susan Collins (R-ME), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), James Risch (R-ID), Ron Wyden (D-OR), David Vitter (R-LA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Mark Pryor (D-AR), John Cornyn (R-TX), Robert Casey Jr. (D-PA), John Boozman (R-AR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Scott Brown (R-MA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), John Hoeven (R-ND), Jeff Merkeley (D-OR), Daniel Coats (R-IN), Christopher Coons (D-DE), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Patrick Toomey (R-PA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Mike Lee (R-UT), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Rob Portman (R-OH), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Dean Heller (R-NV), Jon Tester (D-MT), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Mark Warner (D-VA), Carl Levin (D-MI), and Mark Begich (D-AK).

"The message of this letter is that Congress' patience is running out when it comes to meetings that don't yield results," said a senior Senate aide. "The Iranians have been given every last opportunity to demonstrate their good faith and step back from the brink. Instead, they keep pushing forward with their nuclear program, and we keep asking for yet another round of talks. This is not sustainable."

The Cable

Ex-ambassador hosts D.C. soiree for African strongman

Various members of the Washington diplomatic elite gathered in the D.C. suburbs last night to honor and celebrate Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the president of Equitorial Guinea, whose American real estate empire, allegedly financed through corruption and oppression, is now being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department.

"Ambassador Carlton Masters and Hope Masters Cordially invite you to join us along with His Excellency Teodoro Obiang Mbasago, Presidential Host of the Ninth Leon H. Sullivan Summit FOR Cocktails, Dinner and Dancing," read the invitation to a reception at the Masters residence in Chevy Chase Thursday night.

Masters, who was the first special envoy of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on African Diasporan Relations, is now the president and CEO of Goodworks International, a lobbying firm that brings together mostly energy companies and African governments. He also started a company with former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo.

One of Masters's affiliations is with the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation, a non-profit group working to improve the lives of poor Africans. Thursday's party invitation was sent out under the foundation's name and last December, Obiang accepted the foundation's "Beacon for Africa" award as the chair of the African Union.

Also late last year, the Justice Department and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) filed a civil asset forfeiture complaint against Obiang's son Teodorin, the country's minister of forestry. The U.S. government is going after more than $70 million of Teodorin's assets allegedly laundered in the United States, including a Malibu mansion, a rare Ferrari, a $38.5 million Gulfstream G-V jet, and roughly $1.1 million worth of Michael Jackson memorabilia.

The complaint alleged that Teodorin had amassed his wealth through "extortion and misappropriation, theft, and embezzlement of public funds." Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said at the time, "We are sending the message loud and clear: the United States will not be a hiding place for the ill-gotten riches of the world's corrupt leaders."

Those corrupt leaders don't have to hide when they come to Washington, apparently -- they are still welcome at awards dinners and private parties held in their honor.