76 senators sign AIPAC-backed letter seeking added pressure on Iran

WASHINGTON (JTA) — An AIPAC-backed letter urging President Obama to exert greater pressure on Iran to end its suspected nuclear weapons program  garnered the signatures of 76 senators.

The letter, which also called on Obama to seek avenues to diplomatic resolution, outlines what it says are the four “necessary strategic elements” to dealing with Iran:  “an explicit and continuing message that we will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapons capability; a sincere demonstration of openness to negotiations; the maintenance and toughening of sanctions; and a convincing threat of the use of force that Iran will believe.

“We must be prepared to act, and Iran must see that we are prepared,” said the letter, which was initiated by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The letter notes overtures by new Iranian President Hassan Rohani to make more transparent a nuclear program Iran insists is peaceful, but also demands that Iran agree to remove 20 percent enriched uranium. Rohani has refused to suspend uranium enrichment.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee lobbied for the letter signed by more than three-fourths of the 100 senators. The letter closed Friday and is due to be sent Monday.

Another letter circulating urges Obama to test Rohani’s offer to deal.  Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) initiated the more conciliatory letter.

There was no word yet as to how many signatures the letter, backed by J Street and Americans for Peace Now, had garnered by week’s end.

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