WASHINGTON (JTA) — A bipartisan slate of senators has called on President Joe Biden to aim for an expansive deal that would severely limit Iran’s capacity to do harm.
“Looking ahead, we strongly believe that you should use the full force of our diplomatic and economic tools in concert with our allies on the United Nations Security Council and in the region to reach an agreement that prevents Iran from ever acquiring nuclear weapons and meaningfully constrains its destabilizing activity throughout the Middle East and its ballistic missile program,” said the letter sent Thursday to Biden spearheaded by Robert Menendez, the New Jersey Democrat who is the committee chairman, and Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who is its ranking member.
Biden has said he wants to reenter the 2015 Iran nuclear deal as soon as possible because he sees it as the best means of keeping Iran from accelerating toward a nuclear weapon. The agreement trades sanctions relief for a rollback in Iran’s nuclear program.
Donald Trump as president quit the deal in 2018 and reimposed sanctions, and in retaliation Iran has broken some of its commitments regarding uranium enrichment. A number of other world powers remain committed to the pact.
Biden wants to negotiate tougher conditions after reentering the deal along with agreements that limit Iran’s missile production and adventurism in the region.
While the signatories acknowledged their “differing views on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” as the 2015 nuclear plan is called, they said “we must confront the reality that Iran has accelerated its nuclear activity in alarming ways.”
Republicans oppose reentering the accord at all, and the letter, signed by 43 senators, does not deal with whether the agreement should be revived in any way or jettisoned for a new one. It also points to widening differences between the parties when it comes to Iran policy: Just 14 of the signatories are Democrats. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee backed the letter.
The letter also calls on Biden to consult with allies, including Israel, in considering Iran policy.