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US Senators Push for Broader Iran Deal, Not Return to Nuclear Pact

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avatar by Reuters and Algemeiner Staff

Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-NJ) speaks during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on US Policy in the Middle East, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, US, September 24, 2020. Erin Schaff/Pool via REUTERS

Forty-three US senators, many of whom opposed the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, appealed to President Joe Biden on Thursday to work toward an international agreement that addresses issues beyond just Tehran’s nuclear program.

The letter was released as the Democrat Biden’s administration explores ways to restore the nuclear pact that Iran signed with the United States and other world powers, but was abandoned in 2018 by then-President Donald Trump, a Republican who reimposed sanctions.

Iran retaliated by breaching the terms of the accord in a step-by-step response.

“Democrats and Republicans may have tactical differences, but we are united on preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon and addressing the wide range of Iranian behavior,” the senators wrote in a letter to Biden, dated Thursday.

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The letter was led by Democratic Senator Bob Menendez and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and signed by 41 other Democrats and Republicans.

It notes the “long-held view” from lawmakers and presidents from both parties that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a grave threat to the natural security interests of the United States and its allies and partners.

But is also says Iran poses a threat by exporting arms, supporting militants who target US forces and via its ballistic and cruise missile programs. It also called for the release of political prisoners.

The letter echoes an argument made for years by opponents of the nuclear agreement, who contended that any negotiation with Iran should address a wide range of concerns. Advocates for the nuclear deal said it was more likely to be successful if it focused on reining in Tehran’s nuclear ambitions rather than a broader agenda.

Menendez, now Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, was among Democrats who broke from then-President Barack Obama’s administration to join nearly every congressional Republican in opposing the nuclear agreement, which was also fiercely opposed by Israel.

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