House Pressures Obama to Dismantle Iran’s Enrichment Program

Eric Cantor and Steny Hoyer co-author letter to Obama on Iran

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) / AP
March 3, 2014

Two top House lawmakers called on the Obama administration Monday to ensure that any final agreement with Iran requires it to dismantle all "weapons-related infrastructure," including its uranium enrichment program.

Reps. Eric Cantor (R., Va.) and Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) authored a letter to President Barack Obama on Monday asking him to ensure that Iran shut down nearly all of its nuclear-related facilities under a final deal.

The letter comes as top Senate leaders push a similar letter to the president that was initiated by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which is holding its annual policy conference this week in Washington, D.C.

AIPAC has come under fire in recent weeks from supporters for backing off a new Iran sanctions measure that was working its way through the Senate. The letters from the House and Senate are being viewed as a way to maintain a tough stance without publicly calling for new sanctions.

"We are hopeful a permanent diplomatic agreement will require dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear weapons-related infrastructure, including enrichment-, heavy water-, and reprocessing-related facilities, such that Iran will not be able to develop, build, or acquire a nuclear weapon," the Cantor-Hoyer letter said, according to a copy obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

"We do not seek to deny Iran a peaceful nuclear energy program, but we are gravely concerned that Iran's industrial-scale uranium enrichment capability and heavy water reactor being built at Arak could be used for the development of nuclear weapons," the letter states.

The letter—which includes similar language to a House resolution on Iran that is still being considered—goes on to pressure Obama to keep Congress in the loop on its negotiations with Iran.

The administration has come under increasing fire from certain lawmakers for exploring ways to keep Congress out of the mix on Iran, particularly when it comes to rolling back sanctions on Tehran.

"As negotiations progress, we expect your administration will continue to keep Congress regularly apprised of the details," the letter said. "And, because any long-term sanctions relief will require Congressional action, we urge you to consult closely with us so that we can determine the parameters of such relief in the event an agreement is reached, or, if no agreement is reached or Iran violates the interim agreement, so that we can act swiftly to consider additional sanctions and steps necessary to change Iran’s calculation."

Cantor and Hoyer additionally pushed Obama to ensure that Iran allows international nuclear inspectors access to certain nuclear sites currently deemed off limits under the interim accord.

A final deal "should include an agreement granting the [International Atomic Energy Agency] necessary access to inspect all suspect sites, including military facilities, and providing an unfettered ability to interview Iranian scientists and personnel associated with Iran’s nuclear program," they wrote.

While the lawmakers underscored their support for Obama’s ongoing negotiations with Iran, they cautioned the administration against permitting Iran’s leaders to delay a final deal indefinitely.

"Iran’s history of delay, deception, and dissembling on its nuclear program raises serious concerns that Iran will use prolonged negotiations as a tool to secure an economic lifeline while it continues to make progress towards a nuclear weapon," the letter said. "Iran’s leaders must understand that further sanctions relief will require Tehran to abandon its pursuit of a nuclear weapon and fully disclose its nuclear activities."

The lawmakers also pushed the White House to address Iran’s "horrendous human rights record" and support for terrorist organizations across the globe.

"We remain deeply concerned by Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism, its horrendous human rights record, its efforts to destabilize its neighbors, its pursuit of intercontinental ballistic missiles, and its threats against our ally, Israel, as well as the fates of American citizens detained by Iran," the letter said. "We want to work with you to address these concerns as part of a broader strategy of dealing with Iran."

The letter is being circulated in the House as the Obama administration pushes its Democratic allies in both chambers to block the new bipartisan sanctions legislation.

The fight over new sanctions—which AIPAC originally supported before backing down last month—has been particularly contentious.

Hoyer is said to have nearly pulled his support from the latest letter over quibbles about the language and details, according to a source familiar with the issue.

The White House has been applying great pressure to its Democratic allies to avoid backing these types of actions on Iran, the source said, saying that Hoyer in particular is in a tough position.