Leading US Democrat senators back nuclear talks with Iran in letter to Biden

Leading US Democrat senators back nuclear talks with Iran in letter to Biden
A letter sent to US President Biden by 27 Democratic senators says that sanctions on Iran should be lifted if it returns to compliance with the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal.
2 min read
14 April, 2021
Iran's nuclear activities have increased since the US left the JCPOA [AFP/Getty]
A letter signed by 27 Democratic senators backing indirect talks with Tehran on the Iran nuclear deal has been sent to US President Joe Biden, US Senator Tim Kaine announced on his website on Tuesday.

The letter expressed support for the ending of sanctions against Tehran if it returns to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) by adhering to the deal’s restrictions on its nuclear activities.

It also slammed Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” stance on Iran, with the senators saying this “has brought Iran closer to the capacity to develop nuclear weapons.”

Senators Tim Kaine and Chris Murphy led on the letter and were joined by prominent figures like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Diane Feinstein.

Signatories said they were “encouraged” by the indirect talks between the US and Iran in the Austrian capital Vienna.

They added that returning to the Iran nuclear deal should be "one of [Biden's] early pressing national security priorities."

The talks are also being attended by the other five parties to the JCPOA: China, France, Germany, Russia and the UK.

The 2015 JCPOA stipulated that Western sanctions against Iran would be lifted if it agreed to limit its enrichment of uranium and other nuclear activities.

Read more: Why Turkey wants Biden to salvage the Iran nuclear deal

The Kaine-Murphy letter followed a previous, more hawkish letter signed by Democratic and Republican senators supported by the pro-Israeli lobbying group AIPAC.

That letter, delivered last month, urged Biden to ensure that any potential agreement with Iran goes beyond the nuclear issue and tackles other Iranian activities, including its ballistic missile capabilities.

Robert Casey, a US Senator from Pennsylvania, signed up to both letters.

Trump cancelled the US’s involvement in the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and resumed sanctions against Tehran’s economic operations.

“This was a horrible, one-sided deal,” Trump said at the time

In response, Iran began to increasingly enrich uranium at levels exceeding those permitted by the 2015 deal.

On Tuesday, Iran announced that it would enrich uranium to 60% following a suspected Israeli sabotage attack on its nuclear facility in Natanz. The JCPOA deal only allows it to enrich to a level of 3.67%.

Media reports have said that an Israeli “cyber operation” could have caused the damage to the Natanz facility last Sunday.

However, on Monday Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran would not permit this attack to disrupt the Vienna talks.

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