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Posted at 2:20 PM ET, 12/ 6/2010

Senators tell Obama to hold firm on Iran

By Jennifer Rubin

A bipartisan group of Senators today sent a tough-worded letter to President Obama about Iran. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) praised the "cascade" of recently enacted sanctions. The senators urged the president to emphasize that we intend to "keep ratcheting" up the pressure and that there will be "no possibility of any freeze or reductions" in sanctions until we get a "full, verifiable and sustained suspension" of the Iranians enrichment activities. Saying they are concerned that Iran is simply playing for time, they warned Obama not to be distracted by "tactical maneuvering" by the Iranian regime. Finally, the senators said they oppose "any diplomatic endgame" that would allow Iran to keep its nuclear program.

There seems to be concern among these senators -- as well as others -- that Obama again will lapse into endless "engagement," allowing the Iranians still more time to move advance their nuclear capability.

A senate aide e-mails me about the thinking behind the letter:

The purpose of the letter was to send a bipartisan message to the administration, first, that - until there is a full, sustained suspension in enrichment - the view from the Hill is that the sanctions need to keep ratcheting up. Whatever the merits of 'confidence building' measures like the [Tehran Research Reactor] or other tactical maneuvers, they should do nothing to undermine the momentum we have finally begun to achieve on the pressure track. Second, the letter makes the point that there will be very strong opposition to any kind of proposal that allows the Iranians to keep some sort of enrichment capability. This is an extremely dangerous idea that it is important to knock down.

Or, in blunter terms, the senators are concerned that what the president has said is "unacceptable" -- Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons -- might not mean that absolutely, positively no nuclear weapons program can be left in Iranian hands.

An experienced Middle East negotiator expressed delight that the senators are trying to warn the administration not to get sucked into more fruitless talk with the Iranians. "This is an excellent shot across Obama's bow -- and into [State Department undersecretary for political affairs] Bill Burns's briefcase," he said.

Like Margaret Thatcher, these senators are warning the president not to go "wobbly." Let's see if he listens.

UPDATE: Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Az.) have signed the letter as well.

By Jennifer Rubin  | December 6, 2010; 2:20 PM ET
Categories:  Iran  
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The whole "Iran is a rogue regime" premise is constructed around the "assumption" of what Iran "might" do "if" they aquired a nuclear capability. I don't buy it. This is a strawman argument put out by a certain mid-eastern country. If Iran did go nuclear (I doubt they even want to) they would not be foolish enough to bomb anyone and insure their destruction. They may be Muslim but they are not stupid.

Posted by: mwamp | December 6, 2010 2:52 PM | Report abuse

I find this fascinating parallel between Iran and Palin. Neither of them has actually done anything particularly bad, and both are the subject of endless attacks.

I wish the bi-partisan group of senators would do something about our gaping deficit and stop trying to start yet another war, this time not about WMD but bout PWMD, potential weapons of mass destruction.

Israel HAS nuclear weapons. Pakistan HAS nuclear weapons. North Korea HAS nuclear weapons.

Why is "Iran `might' get nuclear weapons" of such importance?

Posted by: rjpal | December 6, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

"...again will lapse into endless 'engagement'..." If something is endless, you'd think it couldn't be resumed. I guess this is the kind of language you use when your political opponent is enacting the policies you favor and you want to insult him for it.

Posted by: billyblizzard | December 6, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

" Second, the letter makes the point that there will be very strong opposition to any kind of proposal that allows the Iranians to keep some sort of enrichment capability. This is an extremely dangerous idea that it is important to knock down."

No. This is the key way to understand how a power system is different from a weapon. 4% uranium is used for power. 94% uranium is used for weapons. If we can not understand the distinction and can not set up an inspection system to sort that out, we should not even try to negotiate anything with anyone.

Look at hydrogen peroxide. 4% is mouth wash. 94% is rocket fuel.

Has innumeracy taken over?

Posted by: GaryEMasters | December 6, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

I suspect our team could come back with a perfectly good treaty and some Senator will say "no enrichment" and kill the deal.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | December 6, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Bought and paid for by AIPAC and Iran war supporters.

Posted by: wpost16 | December 6, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Except for being the most prominent and prolific sponsor of terrorism and a particularly effective and sadistic oppressor of its own people Iran hasn't really done anything wrong. Sort of like Palin.

Additionally, anyone with common sense, or in the absence of such, a passing familiarity with the WikiLeaks releases would understand that the prospect of an Iranian nuke is a matter of the gravest concern for just about all countries in the Middle East, SA, the Gulf States and Egypt prominent among them.

Posted by: cavalier4 | December 6, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Where were these Senators when the Bush Administartion and Dick Cheney in particular were creating the Iranian monster that we have to deal with today?

Posted by: 54465446 | December 6, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Whether he "engages" or not, Obama will never do anything about Iran's nuclear weapons program. He lacked the guts to even support Iran's Green movement. He's much more concerned about the phony Middle East "peace process" and the inconsequential Start Treaty.

Checking our own power and Israel's is more important to a leftist than thwarting Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Posted by: eoniii | December 6, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

These senators are the craziest of the crazy senators in the US Senate. Their brains are totally programmed by AIPAC contributions. What they say is totally irrelevant. If President Obama has any brain himself, he will ignore them and change course on his policy towards Iran. However, that is too much to expect since President Obama himself is totally controlled by the same powers that control Congress. He cannot make any independent decisions. He is, perhaps, the weakest president in history. Nixon, where are you?

Posted by: quinterius | December 6, 2010 6:29 PM | Report abuse

These SUPER-HAWKS need to chill and get back on their prozac and lithium. Every nation should have the right to have their own nuke plant.

We're so stupid we have not built any nuke plants in 35 years. The only nuke plants we have built are for subs and aircraft carriers.

Posted by: alance | December 6, 2010 7:03 PM | Report abuse

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