House letter urging Iran diplomacy garners 71 signatures


WASHINGTON (JTA) — A bipartisan slate of 71 House members in a letter to President Obama said they backed diplomacy as the means to bring about Iranian nuclear transparency.

"We are aware of the possibility that the Iranian regime is simply ‘buying time’ to further its nuclear ambitions, but we believe that Iran’s declared openness to multilateral discussions — coupled with verifiable intermediate steps to bring its program toward compliance with international obligations — is sufficient to warrant renewed determination," reads the letter sent Wednesday and initiated by U.S. Reps. David Dreier (R-Calif.) and David Price (D-N.C.).

Israeli leaders, who have pressed the Obama administration to consider a military option either by Israel or the United States, and sooner rather than later, have accused Iran of "buying time" with the talks.

The latest round of talks took place this week in Baghdad.

The letter does not count out a military option, saying "It is critical that we employ every available tool at our disposal to dissuade if possible — and prevent if necessary — the Iranian regime from developing nuclear weapons or the capability to produce them from stockpiled materials and components."

However, its emphasis on diplomacy is significant because others in Congress are pressing Obama to adopt Israel’s "red line" for possible military action — the capability of making a nuclear bomb. The U.S. red line for years has been the acquisition of a nuclear weapon.

Dovish pro-Israel groups, including J Street and Americans for Peace Now, praised the letter’s signatories.

"At a time when bipartisanship is rarely seen on Capitol Hill, Congressmen Price and Dreier deserve credit for looking past partisan politics to initiate this constructive and timely letter in support of resolving the Iran crisis through diplomacy," Debra DeLee, Americans for Peace Now’s president, said in a statement.

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