US Lawmakers Push For Warmer Relations With Iran’s New President

131 members of U.S. Congress signed a bipartisan letter calling on President Obama to pursue a diplomatic resolution to the conflict with Iran.
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    In this Monday, June 17, 2013 photo, Iranian President-elect Hasan Rouhani places his hand on his heart as a sign of respect after speaking at a news conference, in Tehran, Iran. (AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)

    In this Monday, June 17, 2013 photo, Iranian President-elect Hasan Rouhani places his hand on his heart as a sign of respect after speaking at a news conference, in Tehran, Iran. (AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)

    In the wake of a historic Iranian election that swept moderate candidate Hassan Rouhani into office last month, the U.S. and Israel appear to be drifting apart when it comes to dealing with Iran’s nuclear enrichment program.

    In the U.S., 131 members of the House of Representatives see Rouhani’s professed willingness to start a new chapter with the U.S. as a positive sign, signing a bipartisan letter calling on President Barack Obama to pursue a diplomatic resolution to the conflict with Iran.

    Rouhani has pledged to re-engage Western powers and reject the “extremism” of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who served as the country’s president for the past eight years.

    Al-Monitor reports that the letter is being circulated by Reps. David Price (D-N.C.) and Charles Dent (R-Pa.) and now includes an unprecedented number of signatures endorsing diplomacy and negotiations with Iran.

    “This is not the first time that Iran has elected a president on a platform of moderation and reform, and history advises us to be cautious about the prospects for meaningful change,” the ‘Dear Colleague’ letter signed by Reps. Price and Dent states.

    “Given the stakes involved for the United States, Israel, and the international community, it would be a mistake not to test whether Dr. Rouhani’s election represents a genuine opportunity for progress toward a verifiable, enforceable agreement that prevents Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Price and Dent wrote.

    The letter doesn’t take the military option or sanctions off the table, but it does stress the need to engage in productive talks. The U.S., Russia, China, the U.K., France and Germany — a group of nations known as the “P5+1” — are expected to start a new round of negotiations with Iran this fall.

    The Price-Dent letter comes on the heels of a decision last month to lift sanctions on select communications equipment, such as cellphones and laptops, a decision applauded by the National Iranian American Council, a pro-peace organization based in Washington.

    “NIAC applauds the Obama Administration’s anticipated decision to lift sanctions on consumer communication tools for the Iranian people tomorrow. This long sought action will help ensure sanctions do not block important consumer communication hardware, software, and services for ordinary Iranians,” the NIAC wrote earlier this summer.

    Conversely, Israel has maintained its hard-line positions, at times threatening to undertake a military strike to prevent Iran from developing its nuclear program.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu renewed threats to strike Iran last week during an interview on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”

    “They’re edging up to the red line. They haven’t crossed it yet,” Netanyahu said. “They’re getting closer and closer to the bomb. And they have to be told in no uncertain terms that that will not be allowed to happen.”

    Speaking about the growing divide between Israel and the U.S., Netanyahu added, “Our clocks are ticking at a different pace. We’re closer than the United States. We’re more vulnerable. And therefore, we’ll have to address this question of how to stop Iran, perhaps before the United States does.”

    Reinforcing this message was Netanyahu’s newly appointed ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, who will replace Michael Oren. Dermer, labeled a “pugnacious loyalist” by the Jerusalem Post, has previously taken hawkish public positions regarding settlement expansion in the West Bank and relations with Iran.

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