NEAR EAST REPORT AIPAC'S BIWEEKLY ON AMERICAN MIDDLE EAST POLICY

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Congress pressed President Obama to “reaffirm boldly and unambiguously that the U.S. can and will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.”
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Reps. Mike Pence (R-IN) and Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) agree on very few issues in Congress, but they came together to support stringent sanctions against Iran.

Congress to Obama: Sanction Iran Now

Soon after the Nuclear Security Summit ended last week and world leaders left Washington, D.C., 84 percent of Congress—81 senators and 366 House members—signed letters to President Obama urging him to “immediately impose crippling sanctions on Iran.”

Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) spearheaded the initiative in the Senate. Reps. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) and Mike Pence (R-IN) led the effort in the House.

“[W]e urge you today to reaffirm boldly and unambiguously that the U.S. can and will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability,” the House letter to Obama said. “We call on you to fulfill your June 2008 pledge that you would do ‘everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.’”

The letters gave President Obama a recommendation for how to pressure Iran. “Certainly, one way to begin would be to reverse the practice under which the U.S. government has awarded at least $107 billion over the past decade in federal contracts to companies investing in or doing business in Iran,” said the House version.

The letters told Obama that Iran must face the consequences of its ongoing nuclear defiance. “We can do this by imposing punishing measures on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, sanctioning Iran’s banking system, and dramatically impacting Iran’s ability to import refined petroleum,” the Senate version said.

The House and Senate letters each reminded the president that they will “soon complete [their] work on the Iranian sanctions legislation that has received the backing of overwhelming majorities in both Houses of Congress.”

That bill, the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, awaits House and Senate negotiations over a final version. BACK TO TOP

Jackson and Pence Unite Over Iran

At a news conference to discuss the House letter to Obama, Reps. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) and Mike Pence (R-IN), the letter’s two initial cosigners, stood together and emphasized that an overwhelming bipartisan majority of Congress demands more stringent Iran sanctions measures.

“Congressman Pence and I don’t always agree on the issues,” Jackson, Jr. said. “ I’m a proud progressive. He’s a consistent conservative… But make no mistake, while we may be from opposite political and ideological ends, we stand today side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder in opposition to Iran’s nuclear ambitions.”

Jackson applauded Obama for putting nuclear nonproliferation at the top of the global agenda and emphasized that there is “no greater or more immediate threat” to that agenda than Iran.

“Iran cannot hide the ball, control the clock, and break all the rules,” he said. “March Madness is over. We must start a new season—a season of severe sanctions.”

Pence agreed. “Over a year ago, President Obama said there must be ‘real and immediate consequences’ for countries that defy their responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,” he said. “In light of this week’s summit and Iran’s continued intransigence, the international community led by the U.S. must act.” BACK TO TOP