Just days after senators trying to kill negotiations with Iran admitted defeat, a new letter from 104 members of the House of Representatives signals an upsurge of support for a diplomatic resolution of the Iranian crisis.
In a powerful letter to President Barack Obama, the members say, "We believe that Congress must give diplomacy a chance."
Representatives David Price (D-NC) and Lloyd Dogget (D-TX) organized the letter and quickly gathered 104 signatures, including four Republicans, and have left it open so more members, as expected, can sign on.
"I believe that we must take advantage of the opportunity before us to pursue a peaceful, diplomatic resolution to Iran's nuclear program," Price said in a statement, "and that we must resist calls by some in Congress to prematurely enact a bill or resolution that risks inadvertently derailing or impeding our ongoing negotiations."
The letter will be a blow to efforts to advance a rumored non-binding resolution in the House that would attempt to derail the negotiations with Iran set to begin again on February 18. Having failed to impose new sanctions that would have killed any deal, opponents of negotiations are now trying to establish impossible goals for a final agreement -- such as the complete dismantlement of Iran's nuclear facilities.
"I don't believe that there is a deal that Iran can agree to that will completely zero out their program," Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) told ThinkProgress earlier this week. "So I think that anyone who insists on that provision basically is insisting that there not be a final deal."
The Price-Dogett letter is similar to the support many members of the House gave to diplomacy in July, when more than 130 Democrats and Republicans signed a letter organized by Representatives Price and Charlie Dent (R-PA) that asked President Obama to "to utilize all diplomatic tools to reinvigorate ongoing nuclear talks."
The full text of the new letter to the president is below:
Dear Mr. President,
As Members of Congress--and as Americans--we are united in our unequivocal commitment to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Middle East would threaten the security of the United States and our allies in the region, particularly Israel.
The ongoing implementation of the Joint Plan of Action agreed to by Iran and the "P5+1" nations last November increases the possibility of a comprehensive and verifiable international agreement. We understand that there is no assurance of success and that, if talks break down or Iran reneges on pledges it made in the interim agreement, Congress may be compelled to act as it has in the past by enacting additional sanctions legislation. At present, however, we believe that Congress must give diplomacy a chance. A bill or resolution that risks fracturing our international coalition or, worse yet, undermining our credibility in future negotiations and jeopardizing hard-won progress toward a verifiable final agreement, must be avoided.
We remain wary of the Iranian regime. But we believe that robust diplomacy remains our best possible strategic option, and we commend you and your designees for the developments in Geneva. Should negotiations fail or falter, nothing precludes a change in strategy. But we must not imperil the possibility of a diplomatic success before we even have a chance to pursue it.