By MICHAEL R. CRITTENDEN
Oct 2, 2014
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addresses the 69th United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations Headquarters in New York last month. Reuters
More than 350 House members are calling on U.S. negotiators to demand greater transparency from Iran over its nuclear program, upping the pressure as Western powers prepare to reconvene talks with Tehran over the next two weeks.
House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) were among the 354 House members who signed a letter sent Wednesday to Secretary of State John Kerry. In the letter, which was released by the top Republican and Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the lawmakers said they were concerned with Iran’s refusal to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“An agreement that effectively prevents Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability demands transparency on the extensive research and development work that Iran has undertaken in the past,” the lawmakers wrote.
There has been a growing concern in Washington over the status of talks between Iran and Western powers to constrain Tehran’s nuclear program in return for the gradual easing of economic sanctions. The current talks have a Nov. 24 deadline, and the most recent round of negotiations saw little headway made.
House lawmakers said in the letter to Mr. Kerry that Iran needs to cooperate with the IAEA so negotiators can establish a baseline assessment of Iran’s nuclear program.
“Accurate predictions of the period of time needed by Iran to assemble a weapon and assessments of Iran’s compliance cannot be made without highly reliable information obtained from an unrestricted inspection and verification regime,” they wrote.
Lawmakers could consider leveling a new round of sanctions against Iran when they return to Washington in November, Mr. Hoyer said in an interview earlier this week.
“Iran has to believe that the military option is not off the table, and two, that further economic sanctions are likely if an agreement is not reached,” Mr. Hoyer said, adding that lawmakers will be paying close attention to negotiations ahead of the Nov. 24 deadline.